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TVMBtON fcHV,LQIie OOftf*. 



by Gentle Mack 

" It is the nioHi complete biography I know, and probably the 
most complete in existence of the great CM t urtiHt of modern times; 
xt is thorough and intelligent. ... U is workmanlike and bears 
every mark of painstaking reliability."*- Walter Fach 


by A mb raise Pollard 

'* M. Vollard's book is a model of how such a thing should 
be. ... It is a book packed with good stories. Every lover of 
personalities, every lover of pictures, and every art student should 
get hold of it."-- J. Middleton Murry 

These are Borzoi Books, published by 








Translated from the Norwegian by Arthur G. Chafer 


1 9 3 7 

Copyright 1937 by Alfred A . Knopf, Inc. 

All rights reserved. No 'part of this book may be reproduced in 
any form without 'permission in *writirtg from the 'publisher, ex- 
cept by a reviewer <w/to may quote brief passages or reproduce not 
more than three illustrations in a r&vte<w to be 'printed in a maga- 

zine or ne'vus'pa'per. 

Manufactured in the United States of America 


Certain of the material contained in this volume ori- 
ginally appeared in The Intimate Letters of Paul 
Gauguin, translated by Van Wyck Brooks, and is- 
sued by the Liveright Publishing Corporation; and 
in Letters of Paul Gauguin to Georges Daniel de 
Monfreid, translated by Ruth Pielkovo, published 
by Dodd, Mead & Company, to both of which pub- 
lishers acknowledgment is made. 


I AM the son of Paul Gauguin and a mother brought 
up in good bourgeois surroundings. In her home I 
grew up and predictions as to my future were many 
and various, ranging from solicitous doubts of how 
I might turn out, being the son of my father, to the 
somewhat too facile but dubious renown his name 
brought me later. A purely external resemblance 
in appearance and manner intensified the opinions 
people formed about me. The mystery which sur- 
rounded father's existence during my childhood and 
even in my adolescence was of great significance 
a mystery which was deepened every time a letter 
came from him to mother; missives from far away, 
which for a little while rendered the strong and 
ever active woman silent and reflective. We children, 
without being told what was in these letters, instinc- 
tively felt the weight and significance of the words, 
and with the aid of the pictures we had at home, 
to us so familiar, t& others strange, we freshened up 



the image of him derived from a short visit he paid 
to Denmark when I was barely seven a memory 
which remains with me to this day, clear and vivid 
as ever. Even now I recall with surprise how strange 
his language and his manner then seemed to me. 
That this was a father was something that was quite 
beyond my comprehension. The image has grown 
ever clearer and more alive with the passing of years. 
But it is always the same just as he stood there, 
reserved, short-spoken, but moved, in the presence 
of his youngest son, whom he did not know and who, 
as he was aware, could not understand him so do 
I see him still, the grown-up man, the stranger, Paul 
Gauguin, my father* 

But the impression was sharply defined on the 
child's retina and gave him a feeling for every little 
thing which might in any way concern his father's 
life and work* Every idle word and every grain of 
gold that was let fall in connection with his name was 
gathered up and preserved. And the exclamation one 
heard so often: <c Why, you're just like your father! " 
bound one closer to the image and spt off its char- 
acter; even if at times it retreated into the obscurity 
of the subconscious, it invariably returned each time 
to the light of consciousness, clearer, stronger, and 
more penetrating. No doubt while I was a child and 
right up to my father's death, when I was twenty, 
it was a fancy portrait, based on a few facts only. 
But the picture was a consistent whole. Then the 


facts were added. First his two books, Noa-Noa and 
Avant et Apres, with the commentaries I was able, 
as a grown man, to coax out of my mother. Com- 
mentaries that were remarkably clear, impartial, and 
revealing, supported by an excellent mefnory and 
stirred by a powerful but cool temperament, inter- 
spersed with a good deal of wit and humour and 
much practical self-esteem, born of family pride* 
and ambition. But they were accompanied by a very 
human and frank understanding of the man to whom 
she had borne five children. She knew and respected 
the talented and industrious bank clerk she had mar- 
ried, appreciated his practical sense and many-sided 
ability, admired and was not a little proud of his 
health and strength. But Gauguin the artist was a 
stranger to her, and she never learned to understand 
this side of him. 

It was beyond her comprehension that a man of 
his gifts and qualifications should take up anything 
so aimless as the career of an artist. 

After reading Jean de Rotonchamps's and Charles 
Morice's biographies, which*, by the way, give very 
different accounts of Gauguin's character both as 
man and as artist, mother decided that they gave no 
true portrait of him as a man; and iik Somerset 
Maugham's novel The Moon and Sixpence she did 
not find a single trait of Strickland which had any- 
thing at all in common with her husband. Gauguin's 
published letters to Daniel de Monfreid aroused 



pity in her without changing her view and without 
throwing any shadow over father's letters to her. 
Shortly before her death she gave me these letters: 
a Read them and they will give you a fairer esti- 
mate of your father} publish them if you think fit. 
He was a strong man both in his disposition and in 
his actions, without malice or suspicion. Perhaps he 
was rather inconsiderate in his candour and in acting 
according to his convictions, but he was always calm 
and consistent, without fanaticism* I could not un- 
derstand his taking up art, though now I understand 
that he had a right to act as he did. But surely no 
one can be surprised that I refused to accompany 
him and bear him more children in an existence 
which to my mind was a mad and hopeless adven- 

To me these letters, together with an intimate 
study of his art, have been a valuable help in com- 
pleting the image of Paul Gauguin which has fol- 
lowed and haunted me all through my youth and 
also to some extent during my subsequent career as 
an artist* 

Besides the books mentioned above I have been 
much assisted by Frederick O'Brien's White Shad- 
ows in the South Seas and by conversations with some 
of father's friends, in particular the French sculp- 
tor and ceramic artist Paco Durio. These have been 
of great importance not merely as affording authen- 
tic information regarding definite events of father's 


life, but also in helping me to understand the sur- 
roundings in which he lived. 

What those who were directly associated with 
him have to say of him as a man is of so conflicting 
a character that I am convinced his feeling was in- 
trospective and that underlying it was a very strong 
emotional life which did not easily find expression 
in everyday intercourse. 

And again his image is brought before me as I saw 
him face to face for the first and last time, the son in 
the presence of the father. 

Years have passed, facts have accumulated, and 
one's own experiences of have explained much. 
The father I did not understand as a boy of seven 
has become Paul Gauguin, and when I attempt to 
draw his portrait it is not the son that loved his father 
who is writing, but myself, whose eyes have been 
opened to Gauguin as artist and man by experience of 
art gathered in the course of a life devoted to art and 
determined by its conditions. Many inner voices, 
good influences and bad, have combined to lead me 
into the right way. 


Portrait of Himself. 1888 FRONTISPIECE 
Gauguin's Mother. Tahiti^ 1892 1 2 
fimile Schuffenecker and WKs Family. 1888 1 3 
Mette Gauguin. 1879 4 2 
Gauguin's Son femile. 187$ 43 
Landscape. i8j6 48 
Gauguin } s daughter Aline. i8jj 49 
Gauguin's Wife. 1879 56 
Gauguin's Wife. 1880 57 
Nude. 1880 66 
Two Sides of Wooden Box Carved with Re- 
liefs of Ballet-Girls after Degas. 1881 67 
From the Rue Car eel. 1881 74 
Winter in the Rue Carcel. 1881 75 
Gauguin } s Son Jean. 1881 78 
Still Life. 1883 79 
Gauguin's Son Clows. Copenhagen^ 1884 84 


Landscape. Copenhagen, 1885 85 

Landscape, Dieppe , 1885 94 

Landscape. Brittany y 1885 95 

Portrait of Himself, Ceramic. 1886 100 

A Fish, Ceramic. 1886 101 

From Martinique. 1887 108 

From Martinique. 1887 109 

Landscape. Brittany, 1888 1 16 

Landscape. Brittany > 1888 117 

Nude. Brittany, 1889 128 

Landscape, Brittany, 1889 1 29 

Z> Christ Jaune. Britt^i, 1889 132 
Bonjour, Monsieur Gauguin. Brittany, 1889 133 

Landscape. Brittany, 1889 138 

'Young Woman. Brittany, 1889 139 

Jacob Wrestling with the AngeL 2889 1 44 

From Le Pouldu. i8go 1 45 

,4 Young Woman. 1890 158 

Vahine no te Tiare. Tahiti, 1891 159 

/ Raro te Owri. 189 1 1 66 

A Man with Two Women. 1892 1 67 

Two Women, Tahiti y 1892 172 

Fruit. Tahiti, 1892 173 

Manao Tupafiau. 1892 190 

Vahine no te VL 1892 191 

Two Children, Brittany, 1894 216 



Poemes Barbaras. i8g6 217 

Whence Do We Come? Who Are We? 

Whither Are We Going? 248 

Portrait of Himself. 1898 254 

The Sailor's Dream. Tahiti, i8gg 255 

Still Life. Marquesas, 1902 272 

The "Flight. Marquesas, 1902 273 





ON the wall of No. 56 rue Notre Dame de Lorette, 
Paris, is a tablet recording that here on June yth, 
1848 the painter Paul Gauguin was born. There is 
nothing in the street, which resembles all other Paris 
streets, nor in the grey house itself to emphasize the 
significance of this piece of information. And were 
it not for the date an average observant Parisian 
would be unlikely to pay much attention to the tablet. 
While the revolutionary date, June yth, 1848, is 
written in letters of blood telling of the vain heroism 
in which many a bright young life was suddenly 
extinguished for the sake of an idea, the name of 
Gauguin is still traced in uncertain characters in the 
history of France. That it is found there at all and is 
likely to shine on with increasing lustre is due to 
Eugene Henry Paul, who saw the light of day at the 
very hour when the first gunfire rattled the windows 
of an ordinary prosperous apartment house in the rue 
Notre Dame de Lorette. 



His father, Clovis Gauguin, came of a middle- 
class shopkeeping family in Orleans with pro- 
nounced republican views, as a result of which young 
Clovis took to politics in the turbulent years around 
1830 and became a political contributor to the 
National. He did not attain to any great eminence 
as a political journalist, but in 1851? when Louis 
Napoleon made his coup d^tat^ his republican at- 
titude forced him to go into exile with his family, 
consisting of his wife, Aline Marie, their five-year- 
old daughter, Marie, and their son, Paul, aged three. 
They were bound for Peru, where his wife had in- 
fluential relatives. He died of a heart attack during 
the voyage and found his grave in the Straits of 

We are only able to draw a faint outline of Paul 
Gauguin's father and his father's family and of the 
influences he may possibly have had on his son's 
character. We may suggest a straightforward inde- 
pendence on a background of bourgeois liberalism. 
Perhaps we may also point to the impetuous opti- 
mism of an honest conviction, giving way to disap- 
pointment and depression in unreflecting moments. 
There are many indications that his intense preoccu- 
pation with recent events in Paris and his restless 
desire to reach Peru after the long voyage in a slow 
ship with an irritable captain were contributory 
causes of his sudden and early death. Impatient and 
short of breath he paced the deck, twenty-three steps 


forward and twenty-three back, while his little son 
stood looking out over the vast expanse of the ocean 
and filling his lungs with the fresh sea breeze, which 
he was never to forget. When land was sighted the 
boy asked: " Papa, is that Peru? " " No, my boy, 
we are scarcely half- way there." 

Our information regarding Aline Marie and her 
family is more ample and definite, at any rate on her 
mother's side. Of her father, who was a wine mer- 
chant of Bordeaux named Chazal, we know little 
beyond that he was sentenced to twenty years' hard 
labour for having seriously wounded in a fit of jeal- 
ousy his wife, Flora Celestine Therese Henriette 
Tristan, his marriage with whom had been dissolved 
eighteen years previously after a conjugal life of 
three years. Flora Tristan was no ordinary woman. 
She was born in Peru in 1 80 3, daughter of a Spanish- 
Peruvian officer and nobleman, Don Mario Tristan 
y Moscoso, and a French lady. According to authen- 
tic reports the Moscoso family can trace their pedi- 
gree to the Borgias d'Aragon, and there is reason 
to think that they came to Peru, if not with Pizarro 
himself, immediately after he had made the coun- 
try a Spanish province. Indeed, there are many traits 
in Gauguin's exterior and in his character which 
point to an admixture of Indian blood in the Mos- 
coso family at some period. An old daguerreotype 
in the possession of the family, of a woman said to, be 

a sister of Don Mario, makes this even more prob- 

_ * __, 


able. And there is no attempt to conceal it. On the 
contrary, Paul Gauguin, if the idea had occurred to 
him, would have been just as proud of this descent 
as he was of being a Borgia. He had no racial preju- 
dices. He says himself: " Memoirs! They are his- 
tory. Everything in them is interesting except the 
author. And he has to tell you who he is and where 
he comes from. Confessions ! A serious business, ac- 
cording to Jean Jacques Rousseau. If I were to tell 
you that on the distaff side I am descended from 
a Borgia d'Aragon, Viceroy of Peru, you will cer- 
tainly say I am boasting; but if I say we are a family 
of tramps you will look down on me, If I tell you 
that on my father's side we are all called Gauguin, 
you will say this is obvious naivete, and if I go into 
details to prove I am no bastard, you will certainly 
smile at me." 

And a little later Gauguin adds, now rather more 
directly and impulsively: " As you see, my life has 
been pretty stirring all through. There are many 
cross-currents in me. A coarse sailor-man? if you 
like. But there is race in me, or, rather, there are two 


At the age of fifteen Flora Tristan came to France 
and was married to Chazal in the following year. 
But humdrum married life did not satisfy her active 
spirit and certainly not her ambition^ Peruvian ro- 
mance, the romance of the Incas, was in her blood. 
Three years after her marriage she managed to get 


a divorce so as to be able to devote herself entirely 
to her own individual interests. Having made the 
acquaintance of Pere Enfantin she fervently em- 
braced the Saint-Simonian doctrine, made her ap- 
pearance as a journalist^ wrote two novels, and did 
not shrink from standing up at public meetings and 
taking the part of the workers, not only in France 
but also in England. Being pretty and tempera- 
mental, with a certain primitive and simple way of 
expressing herself, she had no difficulty in attracting 
attention. And even after the split in the Saint-Simon 
circle she and Pere Enfantin continued their agita- 
tion for social ideas and together founded a workers' 
union in Bordeaux. The severe sentence passed on 
her former husband gives us a hint that in spite of 
her views, then regarded as subversive, and of her, 
for a woman, somewhat irregular way of life, she 
was able to surround her person with sympathy and 
respect even in high places. Youth and charm and 
an unconstrained eagerness produced a peculiar at- 
mosphere about her, in which she was able to assert 
her personality without having to consider public 
opinion and could move among people o all classes 
without having to produce evidence of her position 
in order to uphold her dignity. Her own nature was 
her best protection. She was not rich, could hardly 
be called wel^off, but she was never at a loss when it 
was a question of finding means for carrying on her 
altruistic work for a cause which she believed to be 



for the good of humanity* She died at the age of 
forty-two and the workers erected a monument over 
her grave in Bordeaux. 

Her daughter. Aline, resembled her mother out- 
wardly, was perhaps even prettier, as a certain femi- 
nine reserve added calm to her bearing and balance 
to her manner. To this her upbringing certainly 
contributed. She seldom saw her mother, occupied 
as the latter always was with meetings and lecture 
tours, and yet she was undoubtedly far more attached 
to her than to her father, feeling instinctively how 
profound and dangerous was the gulf which sepa- 
rated these two human beings. Her eyes were opened 
at an early age to the danger of impulsive acts, 
and her father's catastrophe, when she was scarcely 
twenty, intensified this. She only acted when obliged 
thereto by fateful circumstances. She was proud, ten- 
der, and kind, and held fast to what it was her duty 
to protect. She made no fuss and did not give way 
under the burden. She acted calmly and harmoni- 
ously according to her nature, but at the same time 
without calculation. Her son Paul understood this. 

" How pretty and charming my mother was when 
she wore her Lima dress! Her face was half covered 
by the silk mantilla so that only one eye could be seen. 
An eye that was gentle and commanding, pure and 

At an early age her mother placed her in a pen- 
sion in Paris which was visited by literary men and 


journalists of radical opinions, and here she met 
Clovis Gauguin, whom she married shortly after 
Flora Tristan's death. In all probability the latter, 
who at her divorce was not altogether without means, 
had had to settle a sum of money on her daughter, 
and Gauguin, as the eldest son of a prosperous trades- 
man's family, was certainly well enough off even 
during his father's lifetime to justify their estab- 
lishing themselves in an apartment suited to a well- 
to-do Parisian bourgeois family. 

And in fact three portraits painted by a friend of 
the house, Jules Laure, when Paul was about two 
years old, tell us of a happy young mother with two 
healthy and pretty children j a well-dressed little 
girl with her rather unmanageable curls charmingly 
arranged and a pair of lively brown eyes, and a blue- 
eyed boy with reddish hair at the age when one is 
painted without any clothes. Both pictures in oval 
gilt frames ornamented with stucco garlands and 

The portrait of their mother is a rectangular 
three-quarter-length representing Madame Gau- 
guin seated in a gilt armchair upholstered in red 
plush. She is in a simple black velvet gown with 
white ruches at the wrists and at the slightly open 
throat. She is a good-looking woman of delicate 
build 5 in particular the painter has sought to empha- 
size the narrow, graceful, and shapely hands. While 
not remarkable as art, these portraits have an inti- 



macy about them. They bear the impress of the 
painter's delight in his good models and tell us, as 
such portraits often do, more about the model's ex- 
ternal traits and surroundings than about more per- 
sonal qualities. What they reflect is the comfort of 
the home, its protective warmth. 

The sudden breaking up of this cosy and comfort- 
able home must have affected the young mother 
deeply, but perhaps the shock was mitigated by the 
thought of joining that side of her family of which 
she had been able to speak without difficulty and 
which was invested with a certain glamour of ro- 
mance. Perhaps that would explain something of 
the exotic in her own nature, which her husband 
must also have remarked. But his sudden death upset 
all her prospects for the future, leaving her at once 
deserted and homeless. With only her two children 
she was now to land on foreign soil, to seek refuge 
with her family, who were nevertheless complete 
strangers to her, and without the husband who had 
given a meaning to her existence. 

With him she might have built up a new home and 
held her own in the eyes of her relations. Alone with 
two children she was only a poor widow taking 
refuge with her rich family, at whose head was an 
aged man and among whom she would be treated 
with pity. 

But in reality it turned out otherwise, thanks to 
the aged Don Pio, In spite of his hundred and sfeven 


.years he was a vigorous and genial man who kept a 
large and hospitable establishment in Lima. He took 
at once to his brother's grand-daughter with her 
youthful charm, so that in a very short time she 
occupied a leading place in "the numerous family 
circle. To her, coming from a simple bourgeois home 
life, there was something fantastic in suddenly find- 
ing herself the centre of a family representing several 
generations, which upheld its traditions in a manner 
of life to her meaningless and extravagant. But when- 
ever with her French tendency to reality she tried 
to get firm ground under her feet, she felt herself a 
stranger and not her own mistress. She became aware 
of her dependence on this family with its primitive 
joy in wealth, denying itself nothing, but jealously 
guarding what was its own. In spite of the bond of 
relationship she was the born Parisienne, to whom 
her Spanish relatives showed the most exquisite 
politeness, which in those of her own age took the 
form of assurances of friendship assurances, how- 
ever, which were not backed by any great degree o 
cordiality and which had to be renewed from day 
to day if they were not to be forgotten. She must 
assuredly have been homesick for France, especially 
when thinking of her children's future. 

To them life in Lima was a continual fairy-tale, 
particularly for Paul, who had awakened to con- 
sciousness in a place where the sense of vision was 
all-important. In Lima at that time, where monkeys 


were the commonest domestic animals and where the 
vultures fought every evening over the offal of the 
streets, there was plenty to occupy a little boy whose 
greatest delight even then was to go out by himself 
in search of adventures, when he succeeded in elud- 
ing the watchfulness of his imperious elder sister. 
Where the children were concerned their mother 
regarded the future with something like anxiety. 
The boy was actually French, eldest son and, as his 
father's brother Isidore was unmarried, sole heir to 
the name of Gauguin; it was therefore quite natural 
to Aline Gauguin to' undertake the long and trouble- 
some voyage back to France, when after having lived 
four years in Peru she was informed of her father- 
in-law's death. As a French mother she knew her 
duty; she took the children with her, acted promptly, 
but unpractically. When Don Pio died in the follow- 
ing year, his will provided for a very liberal annuity 
for his ward ; but the powerful family got the pro- 
vision annulled and offered instead a smaller sum, 
which Aline Gauguin curtly refused. As we see, a 
proud and authoritative woman, but in a way weak. 
She did not protest, did not assert her right, but ac- 
cepted what fate offered, and adjusted herself ac- 
cordingly. The legacy she received from her father- 
in-law was a modest one, far too small to allow her 
to settle in Paris, as she would have preferred. In 
accepting the offer of her brother-in-law Isidore to 
share the old and spacious family house in Orleans 


TAHITI, 1802 



she would be able to give her children a suitable 
education 5 there would be a small sum to start Paul 
in life and a dowry for her daughter, Marie. 

This was the home in which Paul Gauguin passed 
his childhood up to the age of seventeen. Its head, 
Isidore Gauguin, was a confirmed bachelor, amiable 
and placid as could be, but without any pronounced 
qualities or interests ; his familiar name, Uncle Zizi, 
gives us on the whole a kindly picture of ^he man. 
In the morning he was the attentive, sedentary 
tradesman, in the evening he pottered about his large 
garden. A radical in his political views, liberal- 
minded in religion, without fanaticism, he felt no 
craving to assert these views publicly nor did he seek 
any large circle of acquaintance which would permit 
him to do so. A dapper little man^ife enjoyed the 
comforts of his home, paid his pretty sister-in-law 
the respectful homage she deserved, was grateful 
for the calm and simple manner in which she con- 
ducted the house, and took pleasure in the little 
sensations the children brought into his life, as a 
diversion in the big, quiet house. As a character 
Aline was entirely superior to him, and in a way 
she brought more colour into the middle-class home. 
She had literary interests, drew and painted in water- 
colour, and was also a good deal occupied with poli- 
tics, but she had the profoundest distrust of every- 
thing which had to do with money and business. She 
would flare up angrily on noticing any symptoms of 



a trading instinct in her son. Yet the tragic events 
she had witnessed in her father's case., her mother's 
unfettered outward activities, her husband's sudden 
death, and the four years of stirring, vivid, and ex- 
otic, but by no means intimate experiences in Peru 
had checked in a way her desire to assert herself and 
made her apathetic towards what went on outside 
this home, which was not her home. 

For Petit Paul, as he was called, this home had 
no great attraction, in spite of his affection for his 
mother 5 and his impulsive, ever active, and in- 
triguing elder sister Marie had sufficient eloquence 
and vigour to tyrannize over both her mother and 
him, in spite of her being only two years older. It 
was not altogether without reason that he was called 
Petit Paul. Throughout his childhood he was small 
and delicately built, physically backward, rather 
taciturn, as a rule very tractable, almost meek; but 
when he really set himself against a thing, he was 
obstinate to the point of stubbornness. He was not 
given to calculation in order to obtain an advantage, 
and he was inclined to be confiding, which made him 
an easy dupe. If he had won any advantage, his 
mother and sister were down on him, the latter to 
snatch it from him, the former because she considered 
it a reprehensible action. Little incidents which stick 
in the memory and acquire significance, 

cc One day I came home with some coloured glass 
marbles. My mother asked me angrily where I had 


got them. I felt ashamed and told her I had swopped 
my rubber ball for them. 

a c I see, my boy, you've been doing business.' 
a Business in my mother's eyes was a thing to be 
ashamed of. Poor mother!; She was wrong, and yet 
she was right in this sense: that it taught me even 
as a child that there are certain things one does not 

During his first years in his uncle's home at 
Orleans there was one picture in particular which 
excited his imagination. It was an engraving of a 
traveller with a bundle on his back sauntering along 
the high-road, careless and unconcerned, in a beauti- 
ful sunny landscape. Its title, in ornate lettering, 
was The Merry Wayfarer. One fine day Paul set 
out cheerfully on the road with a bag full of sand 
hanging on a stick over his shoulder, turning his 
back on his home and its petticoat government. To- 
wards evening he was picked up by the kindly 
butcher and brought back. His mother's sudden an- 
ger with the accompanying box on the ears from a 
by no means soft hand, her subsequent joy and ten- 
derness, quenched for a long time his desire for 
adventure. But the tender restraint with which a 
mother surrounds a boy's craving for liberty often 
checks his fearless development more than a father's 
severe and tangible measures. It binds him more 
strictly in evoking his chivalrous instincts ; the break- 
ing of its bonds results in mental suffering, a sense 


of guilt which is stronger than the feeling of physical 
pain one risks by trying to escape from the grasp of 
a father. 

And for this reason it was his school that did more 
to develop the boy's character and open his eyes to 
human qualities, even if this came about in a manner 
different from that which was intended. At any rate, 
he tells us in after years: 

C I won't say like Henri Regnier that this edu- 
cation did nothing for my mental development j on 
the contrary, I believe it did a good deal. Speaking 
broadly, I believe it was here I learned at an early 
age to hate hypocrisy, false virtue, and sneaking 
(semper tres\ learned to distrust everything that 
was opposed to my instincts, my heart and my reason, 
I also learned there not a little of Escobar's spirit, 
which is certainly not to be rejected as an auxiliary. 
I acquired the habit of concentration and of con- 
tinually watching my teachers' game, I taught my- 
self to make my own playthings, as well as my own 
troubles, with all the responsibilities they involved. 

a But this is a special case; in general I expect 
there is danger in the experiment." 

Paul cannot have been particularly happy at 
school, but at any rate it never caused him much 
difficulty. He was apt rather than eager to learn, 
had no special abilities which he was trying to de- 
velop. And his mother had no special desires for 
his future beyond the negative one that he was not 


to inherit the Gauguin family business in the little 
town of Orleans. The life she had been accustomed 
to, the traditions of her own family, obscure as they 
might be, made other claims and aspired to higher 
and more spacious things than were aimed at in 
Uncle Zizi's home. 

And Paul himself instinctively felt that outside 
the narrow walls of this home there were things that 
had a message for him, demanding that he should 
liberate himself from mother, sister, and Uncle Zizi, 
He did not know what these things were, could not 
explain them. But he had once looked out over an 
ocean. As a boy of sixteen he was still physically 
backward and in spite of his observant and inquiring 
intelligence had difficulty in standing up to his ma- 
ture and temperamental sister Marie. A certain boy- 
ish shyness of her womanly charm, and the feeling 
of chivalry which his mother by her whole nature 
evoked in him, almost always prevented him from 
having his own way. But this petticoat government 
worried him and he longed to get away from it. 

For the son of a good family it was at that time a 
natural course to apply for admission to the Naval 
College. But his desire of travel was too great, and 
the actual goal too obscure, to allow him to concen- 
trate on the subjects required for the entrance ex- 
amination j so at seventeen it was decided that he 
should go to sea at once, with a view to becoming 

an officer in the merchant service. 

T * -^ 


It was with a certain surprise that Tombard, a 
kind and genial quadroon, captain of the Luzitano, 
received his new apprentice Paul Gauguin, a little 
slender-limbed lad, rather embarrassed by his new 
position as the youngest hand aboard a fine, well- 
found sailing-ship of 1,200 tons, which was to carry 
cargo and passengers between Havre and Rio de 
Janeiro. But he was dominated within by the thought 
of the adventures awaiting him a thought which 
was connected with his childish memories of the 
ocean and of the country beyond it. 

The day before they sailed he had a visit from 
the former apprentice, who brought him a card and 
a letter, asking him to deliver it at the address given 
and explaining that it would introduce him to a 
charming lady. The address was: Madame Aimee, 
Rua do Ouvidor. 

This gave him something new to look forward to. 
The ocean voyage had a goal which meant some- 
thing to him personally. Every forward movement 
of the vessel had its object, which he observed with 
interest. He felt himself growing, awakening as it 
were to the consciousness of a future. It was no longer 
a dream; life was under way. He gave little thought 
to the direction it might take, he only felt that it 
would lead somewhere. Favoured by the weather, 
the Luzitano carried him along to a foreign port and 
new surroundings. And one fine day the vessel an- 
chored in Rio harbour, where she was to lie for a 


month. A month which gave Paul, in Aimee's so- 
ciety, every opportunity of finding out that he had 
arrived at years of discretion. Without any of its 
obsessions or scruples he was taught the nature of 
love in such a way that the memory of it accom- 
panied him through life as a part of himself in rela- 
tion, to the powerful and healthy essence of nature. 

" Aimee made an end of my virtue, and no doubt 
the soil was a favourable one. On the homeward trip 
we had several passengers, and among them a bounc- 
ing Prussian woman. Properly speaking, it was now 
the captain's turn to be smitten, and in fact he made 
great play for her, but it was no good. She and I 
had found a delightful nest in the sail-room, the door 
of which opened on to the companionway. I filled 
her up with a heap of the wildest yarns and as- 
surances, and my Prussian, who was tremendously 
thrilled, insisted on seeing me in Paris. I gave her 
as my address: La Farcy , rue Joubert. This wasn't 
nice of me and I had some qualms of conscience 5 
but I couldn't very well send her to my mother's. I 
don't want to make myself out any worse or any 
better than I am, but at eighteen there are germs 
of all sorts of things in one." 

Apart from this the life aboard the Luzitano was 
to Paul mostly amusement which gave him an op- 
portunity of developing his physical strength. He 
was free and enjoyed his freedom* His existence 
was an affair of the passing day ; he thought little of 


the future, had no dreams of great aims, scarcely 
felt that he had a call. He simply grew, developing 
into a well-built, powerful, and active young man. 
It took time, he did not shoot up suddenly; only at 
twenty was he fully grown. He had no special in- 
terests nor any ambitions, not even as a sailor. He 
was vegetating almost, but he was smart and handy 
at his work, without attracting particular attention. 
At twenty he entered on his military service. His 
mother, who had now moved to Saint-Cloud, had a 
growing sense that the sea did not offer her son any 
future. She spoke to her good friend and neighbour 
Gustave Arosa and together they arrived at the con- 
clusion that at the end of his military service Paul 
should try banking. A not unusual course for a young 
man who had no very sure sense of what he was 
destined for, and in this case all the more natural as 
Arosa's son-in-law Calzado was manager of the 
banking firm of Bertin in the rue Lafitte. 

Aline Gauguin did not live to see her son safely 
disposed. The Franco-Prussian War had broken out 
and Paul was stationed in the Cattegat on board the 
cruiser Dessaix, which was patrolling there. The 
house she lived in at Saint-Cloud was set on fire in 
the bombardment, and soon after Aline Gauguin 
died. She had been able to marry her daughter to a 
rich merchant of Colombia, but her son's future was 
only vaguely outlined. 

Apart from the family portraits and a few valu- 


able pieces of furniture everything was lost in the 
fire, including all the family papers. Paul Gauguin 
was thus an orphan and, broadly speaking, homeless 
when he landed in the spring of 1871 after com- 
pleting his military duties, 

Physically he had grown into a powerful and 
healthy man, trained in bodily exercises. A goodi 
fencer and boxer and an excellent swimmer. He was 
well built, rather above the middle height, broad- 
shouldered, narrow in the hips. His hands and feet 
were small, but strong, with long fingers. The head 
was narrow, with a long neck and a low forehead, the 
nose large, with a pronounced curve, and the mouth 
remarkable for the distance between it and the nose, 
the narrow upper lip, and the powerful, rather pro- 
truding lower lip. The mouth was the dominant fea- 
ture in the narrow lower face with its slightly reced- 
ing chin. The pale green eyes, not very large, were 
deeply set under straight brows; the eyelids were 
heavy and a pronounced far-sightedness gave him 
in general a rather absent look. 

He had little growth of beard, but his hair was 
strong, reddish, and dark. His complexion was a 
uniform cool brown, with a greenish tinge in the 

In a purely physical sense his life at sea had 
matured him; his emotional life had become some- 
what more robust, but intellectually he had not yet 
arrived at complete consciousness. In a way his in- 



telligence was still asleep ; no doubt a certain natural 
resolution in him had been intensified by the five 
years at sea, but it was not yet directed to any goal. 
He was impatient, however. In reality a man of pro- 
nounced ambition and at the same time sure of him- 
self, he now felt he must get on rapidly. The only 
question was how. The prospects offered by a sailor's 
life did not really tempt him. It was no loss to him to 
bid farewell to the sea, so he listened attentively to 
the proposals of his influential well-wisher Arosa 
and accepted them, feeling that they gave him a 
chance of living independently and perhaps led to 
a future. Who could tell? 

The experiences and knowledge he had hitherto 
acquired were not exactly the most suited to his fu- 
ture work, but one does not worry about that when 
one is only twenty-three, can face life with courage, 
and is free from the restraint of family and friends 
and the advice they offer, and not troubled by any 
definite idea of a future calling. 

In reality his consciousness was still dormant, and 
with it many latent powers and forces waiting for 
release 5 and now everything was well disposed for 

He was a welcome guest at the house of Gustave 
Arosa, where he was able to extend his intellectual 
horizon. His host was a man of literary and artistic 
interests, who owned a considerable collection of 
the works of contemporary artists. He occupied his 



leisure with photogravure among other things and 
had executed good reproductions of Delacroix and 
Courbet. This gave him a peculiar insight into the 
technique of the various artists and enabled him to 
judge of art with something of an expert's eye. And 
nothing pleased him more than talking about it, 
especially to his young protege^ who showed an evi- 
dent interest in these things and had a remarkable 
power of receiving and retaining an impression of 
what he saw. 



ON the little Danish island of Lassso in the middle 
of the Cattegat there was born on September yth, 
1850 a fine and healthy baby girl, who was chris- 
tened Mette Sofie. Her father was Theodor Gad, the 
local magistrate, and her mother's name was Emilie, 
nee Lund. Mette was their first child, and she 
showed a strong likeness to her father, a big, power- 
ful man of Nordic type with a strong and healthy 
disposition and a good deal of common sense. He 
carried out his official duties with authority tem- 
pered by leniency, asserted his dignity gently, ami- 
ably, and as a matter of course by virtue of his hand- 
some presence, his good opinion of people in general, 
and a natural geniality which was coupled with 
great sociability and a ready wit. But he died of facial 
erysipelas at the age of forty, while district judge at 

His widow moved to Copenhagen and joined her 
mother, who was living on her pension as the widow 


of a lieutenant-colonel. This together with Emilie 
Gad's pension made up the modest income on which 
the family had to support themselves and bring up 
the five children: Mette Sofie, two more daughters, 
Ingeborg and Pauline, and the boys Theodor and 

If the financial position of the home was not 
exactly brilliant, it did not in any way hinder the 
free expansion of the lively disposition which the 
members of this family possessed in a very high 
degree. Emilie was a capable and practical house- 
keeper who understood the arts of cookery and of 
conducting a house with propriety, and her mother, 
the colonel's widow, was an uncommonly lively 
old lady, free-spoken and rather given to broad jokes. 
She was the daughter of a blacksmith named Paulsen 
at Brondshoj, who besides his forge kept a little 
tavern in that village just outside the capital, where 
young artists and poets, Herman Wessel among 
them, used often to meet convivially. And black- 
smith Paulsen was as famous for his bodily strength 
as his two daughters were for their beauty. Pauline 
had married first a noted miniature-painter named 
Lund, by whom she had her daughter Emilie, and 
afterwards Lieutenant-Colonel Paulsen, But neither 
the quiet and much older miniature-painter nor the 
distinguished and stylish army officer had succeeded 
in putting a polish on the merry daughter of the 
blacksmith. Many years of barrack life had rather 



intensified her liking for primitive and high-spirited 
conduct and for the use of strong language and bold- 
ness in her choice of subjects. She had also brought 
with her a good deal of imperiousness and obstinacy 
from her army life, but she found in her daughter a 
worthy opponent. With a delicate sarcasm that was 
all her own Emilie could drive people into a corner 
when it suited her; coolly and without passion she 
asserted her opinion and almost always got her own 
way. But this very opposition between the two 3 
women was productive of movement and life and 
stimulated the children's already awakened sense of 
the differences in human character, even within a 
narrow family circle. All three daughters were fine- 
grown, pretty girls; the two younger in particular 
were remarkable for their beauty. Mette was rather 
too big and powerful, and her features were strongly 
marked, almost like a man's, and full of character. 
Like the boys, they were all talented, quick at learn- 
ing, and endowed with unusually good memories. 

The family occupied a spacious top floor in a 
prosperous-looking house in Nyhavnsgade, centrally 
situated, one may say, but with a free and open view 
over the harbour. It was marked by good bourgeois 
taste; the solid mahogany furniture characteristic 
of a Danish official's home expressed in its rather 
chilly impersonality the orderly calm which its oc- 
cupants were destined to maintain. 

As the girls grew up into lively and sociable young 


women they attracted many young people to the 
house in Nyhavn, which became more and more a 
rendezvous of cheerful society, the masculine part of 
which belonged largely to the Danish Navy, spirited' 
and good-looking young men who could enjoy 
grandmother Paulsen's freedom of speech. Kept in 
check by the satire of her daughter Emilie, she gave 
a lively and unconstrained, but still decorous tone to 
the conversation. But it was a rule of the house that 
all attention was paid to the old lady, who had kept 
her looks wonderfully and even at the age of eighty 
was always ready for a schottische with one of the 
young men. But in reality the cadets were taken up 
with Ingeborg and Pylle (Pauline). Mette was 
cooler, sharper and wittier in repartee, and she 
looked for more brains in a man than did her sisters, 
though they too were critical, but not nearly so ex- 
acting as Mette. For one thing, her nature was 
simpler and less complicated and her emotions less 
impulsive and more limited, and, for another, she was 
obliged, as the eldest and most ambitious of the 
sisters, to think of making her own living, and this 
brought her into contact with other people than 
those of their narrower circle. Nor had she perhaps 
quite so sure a feeling as her two exceptionally pretty 
sisters that she would be successful in the game called 
love. She had not a pronounced erotic nature, did 
not give it much thought 5 she was practical, with a 
craving for freedom and independence. The unfor- 



tunate issue of an early love-affair with a young 
naval officer perhaps made her force herself to think 
less of such things than she would otherwise have 
done. She was also rather short-spoken and quick 
to adopt a point of view; in many ways she matured 
early, as though she had skipped the enthusiasms of 
girlish years. 

At seventeen she was appointed governess to the 
children of Estrup, the Prime Minister. It was a 
great change for her to come from a modest bour- 
geois home, in which two women asserted their au- 
thority, each in her own way, to a great country 
house where one man alone ruled absolutely. This 
was the most eminent man in Denmark, and it was 
not only in the King's Council that his will was law; 
it was the same on his estate and in his home; he was 
the man who saw everything, had an eye for every 
detail, and took care that all was done as he wished 
it. A tyrant in his way, but capable, open to new 
ideas, and in the main unselfish in all that he under- 
took. But he loved power; early and late his rule 
could be felt. He was staunchly conservative and 
loyal, an upholder of the privileges of the nobility, 
but he was entirely without snobbery and judged his 
fellow men by their capability rather than by the 
position they chanced to occupy in society. And his 
wife was an amiable woman, extremely musical, 
with a wonderful voice. To her husband she was 
entirely submissive, in spite of all the blue blood in 


her veins, which was absent in his. But she admired 
and loved him. For that matter, she saw only the 
good side in everyone and was herself good and well- 
bred. Here Mette Gad became governess to five 
children, three boys and two girls. She not only was 
their governess, but soon became their confidential 
friend and was treated by their mother as one of 
the family. And His Excellency himself very soon 
took a fancy to her for her frank, straightforward 
manner and for her courage and presence of mind. 
While with the Estrups, either on their great 
estate of Skaff ogaard or in Copenhagen, when occa- 
sionally the whole family visited the capital during 
parliamentary sessions, the young woman met many 
leading men, and it amused the Prime Minister to 
introduce his guests to his governess and watch the 
intrepidity with which she conversed with them, 
urging the liberal views she brought from her home 
upon some dumbfounded ultra-conservative mem- 
ber of the government. Not that she was particularly 
fanatical in her point of view, but she had been 
brought up to look upon politics, religion, and morals 
as things which were capable of being discussed from 
various angles. It was nevertheless instructive for 
her to find herself in entirely different surroundings, 
where opinions were determined by very definite 
social points of view and political considerations. 
Among these people life was vastly more compli- 
cated and hemmed in by qualifications than it was in 



the Gad family, where life was taken as a matter 
of course which arranged itself, provided one was 
physically well-favoured and reasonably cultured. 
All independent thought and action was confined 
within a framework which, even if it was wide 
enough to allow for liberal ideas, nevertheless had 
its bounds, which were very carefully observed by 
the family tradition. And the prevailing tone was 
admirably adapted to the exigencies of the time, 
without being either too reactionary or too liberal. 

The favoured position Mette occupied in the 
Estrup household gave her ample opportunity of ex- 
tending her knowledge, and with her quick brain, 
backed by an excellent memory, she had acquired 
such training in languages, especially French, that 
by the time she was twenty she began to think of 
foreign travel. But a couple of years were to go by 
before the chance came; difficult years for a girl 
who had outgrown her home. There had never been 
any great cordiality between her and her mother. As 
the eldest child she had been particularly attached to 
her father, who was her ideal before all others. Her 
real object now was to liberate herself and to be in 
a position to stand on her own feet. 

It was a friend of her own age, Marie Heegaard, 
daughter of a rich manufacturer, who gave her this 
first chance. Heegaard wished his daughter to see 
something of the world in other words, to go to 
Paris and his confidence in Mette's sound sense 
3 o 


and linguistic attainments made him choose her as 
travelling companion for his daughter. Well sup- 
plied with money these two blonde daughters of the 
North set out for Paris, as independent young ladies, 
in the spring of 1873. The route they took was via 
Esbjerg and Rouen by a Danish steamer, whose chief 
engineer was a relative of Mette's. With him as a 
guide they travelled on to Paris and were deposited 
with Pere Aube, a sculptor, whose wife kept a very 
good pension where a few young Parisians without 
homes of their own were in the habit of taking their 
meals. Not infrequently they spent their evenings 
with their pleasant host and hostess and the foreign 
visitors, who in this way were brought in contact 
with the French spirit. And thus they made the ac- 
quaintance of educated Parisians who could guide 
them safely through the teeming life of the capital 
and familiarize them with the nature of the French 
language. Everything was thus favourably disposed 
for the two young Danish women's stay in Paris. 



IN everything except his relations with women Paul 
Gauguin was a pronounced optimist, with confi- 
dence in life, in other^men, and, above all, in him- 
self. Emancipated from conventions and dogmas, he 
trusted mainly to the faculty of combination which 
he felt he possessed to help him in his new position. 
He did not trouble himself to make inquiries and 
seldom explained his intentions. He abounded in 
initiative and usually acted after mature considera- 
tion, though he often obeyed an instinct which told 
him he must exert all his powers in order to achieve 
his end. But at the same time he was fully alive to 
anything that actively affected what he had in hand. 
Time after time this young and very impassive bank 
clerk surprised his older colleagues by the direct and 
decisive answers he returned to a question. All his 
notes were brief and concise, written in a small, clear, 
delicate hand. He kept his office hours like clock- 
work and always found something to occupy him. 
; ^ 2 _ T 


It must be said that the rest of the bank's staff 
found this doubtless calm and polite but rather taci- 
turn young man, who had lately exchanged the 
sailor's jumper for an office jacket, distinctly stand- 
offish. All their attempts to initiate him into the po- 
litical, religious, and social interests which occupied 
them as average Parisians were in vain. After office 
hours, during which he was exclusively taken up 
with business, Paul Gauguin went his own way, 
usually to read at home ; he did not feel much drawn 
to ordinary social intercourse and had no great talent 
for casual small talk. His constant occupation was 
with the values with which one has to deal in order 
to arrive at a positive understanding of life, and he 
found them above all in the poets. He chose par- 
ticularly Balzac, Edgar Allan Poe, and Barbey 
d'Aurevilly. By way of lighter entertainment he 
visited the public dance halls on Saturdays, for he 
was fond of dancing and had a purely sexual impulse 
to attach himself to women without having to saddle 
himself with responsibilities of long duration. His 
childhood and youth had been passed almost entirely 
in the society of women and he had too often felt the 
spiritual pain of liberating oneself from their tender 
but powerful bonds. And this led him to prolonged 
reflection before surrendering himself to a love- 

Without any relations to whom he felt attached, 
without acquaintances that time had ripened into 



friendship^ Paul Gauguin was a rather lonely man. 
No one had any claim on him but himself. His am- 
bition was to make something of his existence, though 
as yet he did not know what form it was to take. He 
could conceive no image of his future. All that was 
clear was that he was now given a chance and that 
he must avail himself of it to the best of his ability. 

In the line of business he had adopted-, the object 
was to make money by handling current financial 
values} nothing new was to be produced, the aim was 
to earn enough for one's requirements and to satisfy 
one's demands for the good things of life, to enjoy 
one's liberty and the independence which comes of 
earning enough to be able to buy things that are use- 
ful and bring one pleasure. The business as such in- 
terested him little and its methods had no attraction 
for him. He was no gambler, though he understood 
the game very well and always judged the financial 
situation calmly and deliberately, and with a never 
failing confidence in himself and his own opinion. 

It was just this that Calzado was very quick to 
discover in his young assistant, and he was not con- 
tent to watch Gauguin in silence, but encouraged 
him by constantly improving his position in the bank, 
so that at the end of two years he had every reason to 
consider himself a young man of good prospects. 

He had no really extravagant habits, but liked to 
live well, in comfortable quarters, surrounded by 
pretty things, and was fond of good cooking. In fact, 


he wanted to live comfortably without having to 
economize. But taking all his meals in a restaurant 
was not altogether to his liking. One was seldom al- 
lowed to eat in peace, unless one surrounded oneself 
with a wall of coldness. There was always somebody 
who addressed casual and irrelevant questions or 
perhaps entertained the whole restaurant with his 
political opinions, invariably ending with the cus- 
tomary appeal to his nearest neighbours for their ab- 
solute assent an assent which, however annoying, 
was quite necessary if one desired peace. It was rather 
more agreeable at Pere Aube's pension, where there 
was a sense of home and the conversation generally 
turned on art and literature j but the whole thing was 
often rather casual and a well-bred young man was 
obliged to take a part on one side or the other if he 
did not wish to be regarded as a boor. 

Paul Gauguin was inclined to envy his only real 
companion in the bank, fimile Schuffenecker, a 
good-natured fellow whose hobby was drawing and 
painting in his leisure time. He was a few years 
older than Gauguin, but admired the latter, looking 
up to him as a budding financial genius. He had just 
installed himself in a comfortable home, had col- 
lected a few pictures by good artists, and had a pretty 
and sensible wife, who never troubled her husband 
or her visitors with uncalled-for or superfluous ex- 
planations. On the contrary, Gauguin found her one 
of the few women with whom one could talk straight 


out, without being either profound or involved. She 
was tall too, with a face full of character. In reality 
he thought a good deal more of her than of her hus- 
band, who was rather small and insignificant, some- 
what vacillating in his infinite amiability and not 
very settled in his opinions. And yet one had no im- 
pression that she was the ruling spirit. On the con- 
trary, the relations between them were harmonious, 
such as exist between two people who respect each 
other's personal freedom. On her side Madame 
Schuffenecker felt a decided sympathy for her hus- 
band's rather taciturn and very self-sufficient friend. 
As a natural, sensible, and unprejudiced woman she 
perceived that the arrogance of his manner concealed 
a powerful and manly instinct with very violent feel- 
ings, to which a remarkable intelligence denied an 

Actually there was no financial reason to prevent 
Gauguin from settling down in a home like that of 
his friend, and the possibility began to hover before 
him. But he had not yet come across any woman in 
Paris whose looks and character gave him sufficient 
confidence to make the experiment. 

Chance was to decide, as it had so often done be- 
fore in his life and hitherto without his having any 
ground for complaint. 

One fine day in spring Gauguin on leaving his 
office paused for a moment at the corner of the 
boulevard des Italiens, hesitating where to dine. The 


horse-chestnuts were flowering j their bright sprigs 
of bloom swayed in the mild spring breeze among 
the masses of green foliage which were outlined 
against the tall shining walls on the other side of the 
boulevard. A young brightly dressed woman brushed 
against the overcoat he carried over his arm. He gave 
a start and turned hesitatingly, following with his 
eyes the motions of her body as she walked on. But 
then he took the opposite direction towards the place 
de POp era, still rather uncertain where he was go- 
ing. He did not feel inclined to go to the restaurant 
in the place de la Bourse, which he generally fre- 
quented, or to the little brasserie on the corner in the 
quarter where he lodged. Perhaps he would go to 
Pere Aube's, where he hadn't been for ever so long, 
or to some new place farther out in Montparnasse. 
He turned down the avenue de P Op era, which lay 
before him broad and bright in the spring sunshine, 
and followed the stream of business people who were 
on their way home to the left bank of the Seine. He 
could still put off making up his mind till he reached 
the neighbourhood of the pension. But, after all, it 
would be pleasant to meet people one could talk to. 
He was in the vein for that and rather dreaded hav- 
ing to sit and mope by himself all the evening. And 
finally he decided to go up to Aube's. 

In the dining-room Madame sat talking to two 
fair-haired young women. One in particular at- 
tracted his attention. She did most of the talking, not 

__ 9*7 - - 


very fluently and with a pronounced foreign accent. 
He noticed her voice; it was powerful, with a slight 
roughness, almost like a man's; but it was not harsh, 
rather broad, with an open ring, and she spoke 
calmly and restrainedly, pronouncing the words 
clearly. He was introduced: Mette Gad. She was 
tall, broad-chested, simply and naturally built, with 
large, frank features in a face of unusual strength. 
She was fair-haired, without any decided colouring 
of either hair or complexion. 

What attracted him was her healthy freshness, 
the harmony and simplicity of her presence. Even 
the slightly foreign note appeared natural and set off 
her personality. 

In the course of the evening's conversation, about 
things great and small, he soon found out that she 
shared many of his interests and that her view of 
most things was based on independent conclusions 
which often surprised him by their maturity and 
open-mindedness. There was something fresh and 
springlike about her which suited the mood he had 
been in all day. He suddenly remembered the light 
brush of a woman's arm on the boulevard and looked 
at the young woman before him, following with his 
eyes the movement of her body. Then he got up to 
say good-night, promised Madame Aube, as usual, 
to come again soon, expressing the hope that he 
would meet the young ladies, and as he repeated all 
the customary phrases there was perhaps an un- 
- 3 8- 


wonted genuineness in his tone. He felt there was 
something behind his words. 

The days passed quickly that spring; before he 
was aware of it the pavement struck warm as he went 
down the avenue de P Op era in the afternoon on his 
way to the Aubes'. The intervals between his meet- 
ings with the two young Danish ladies grew shorter 
and shorter; soon there was no interval at all. - 

They knew where he was in the habit of lunching 
and liked the distinctly masculine tavern opposite 
the Bourse, which now seemed to him cosier and 
more homelike than before. He was a little surprised 
at the familiar way in which they dropped in on him 
there and parted from him when he went back to his 
office. It was something new to him as a Frenchman, 
this free and easy tone, so natural and unforced that 
it must be in their blood. And he liked it. 

The intercourse between the three young people 
was soon marked by a natural intimacy to which 
Gauguin had been little accustomed hitherto. His 
manner became easier, less reserved, and more com- 
municative. And by degrees their conversation ac- 
quired a freely confidential tone, as when Mette Gad 
with a racy humour all her own expressed her an- 
noyance with the impertinences to which her luxu- 
riant figure often exposed her from male admirers. 

To tell the truth, this same healthy shapeliness 
had proved very attractive to Gauguin, and the more 
he got to know her, the stronger was the impression 



it made on his susceptible senses. At the same time 
had discovered a quality about her which gave o 
to understand that she was an independent perso 
ality and more inclined to be guided by her clear a: 
sound intelligence than by her emotions. Her inten 
in erotic matters was a cool one and largely co 
trolled by her practical sense and her humour. B 
that in itself reassured him and enabled him to ove 
come much of the excessive deference and reser 
which he had been accustomed in his youth to ol 
serve towards women of his own class. A deferen< 
at which he often chafed and which hindered h 
natural self-expression. 

Imperceptibly the talks between him and Meti 
Gad became more intimate and with this growin 
intimacy they talked more and more about their 
selves, leading up to the question which called fc 
a decision, and as they both knew their own mine 
the answer was not long in doubt. In the course c 
the summer they agreed to be married as soon a 

At her home in Denmark Mette's decision cause* 
no anxiety. From her own calm and rational letter 
and what they heard from Marie Heegaard on he 
return., the family concluded that Mette's futur< 
husband was a responsible young man in a good posi- 
tion. The only person whose advice Paul Gauguii 
was bound in duty to ask, Gustave Arosa, took ar 
immediate fancy to the young woman his protege 


had chosen and was pleased that the latter had come 
to a decision which could only encourage him to 
build up a safe and solid future for himself. 

A little apartment was found and on November 
22nd, 1873 they were married in the Lutheran 
church of the rue Chauchat. Religion meant noth- 
ing either to him or to her, but as Gauguin did not 
belong to any church it was decided out of considera- 
tion for certain members of the Gad family to sup- 
plement the obligatory civil marriage by a religious 

Before many months had passed Gauguin felt sure 
that he had no reason to regret his choice. In fact he 
was astonished at the ease with which his wife was 
able to accommodate herself to the foreign surround- 
ings in which she found herself. She now spoke 
French fluently and she was a great talker, giving 
him a gay and witty account of her doings during the 
day and of the people she had met. In short, she lived 
her own life while he was at business and never 
troubled him with unnecessary questions, very sel- 
dom wearied him with repetitions, being keenly alive 
to all that happened at the moment and having a wide 
range of interests, especially for what was actual. 
Rather rapid and superficial in her judgments, per- 
haps more occupied with the meaning of a thing 
than with its execution, but always prompted by 
sound sense. Actually it only amused him, being 
himself rather stolid in his thoroughness, to watch 


the ease and self-possession with which this young 
woman behaved in company and in most o the af- 
fairs of life. Though not lacking in character or 
individuality, she was uncommonly sociable, and 
he liked that. He knew very well that he was not 
socially gifted and was glad to see that this did not 
in any way hamper her free expansion. They re- 
spected each other's health and strong vitality. And 
the fine and lusty boy she bore him in October 1 874 
increased and strengthened this feeling. He was 
proud to be a father and did not keep it to him- 
self, confiding amongst others in Marie Heegaard's 

a Mette would have been so happy to show you 
her baby. Let me tell you he's a fine child 5 it is not 
only our father's and mother's hearts that say so; 
everyone says the same. White as a swan and strong 
as Hercules. I'm not quite sure if he is amiable; 
very likely not, with so cross-grained a father." 

Some months before the birth of fimile, Gauguin 
had begun to draw, and Mette was rather surprised 
to see how well he got on, for he had never before 
shown signs of any ability in that direction. Though 
she knew from her visits to Arosa and to Schuffe- 
necker that he was interested in painting and often 
went to exhibitions, there was nothing in the way 
he talked about it to disclose that he himself had 
ever tried his hand. And now he drew hands and 
feet and now and then herself as she sat resting. And 






he always went to work with his usual thoroughness, 
studying the object very carefully and drawing the 
same hand over and over again in the most various 
positions. After Smile's birth her husband was more 
and more taken up by his drawing and began to 
paint as well; she herself had enough to do with her 
baby and was only pleased when on Sundays he set 
out with his paint-box for the environs of Paris or 
accompanied Schuffenecker on an occasional eve- 
ning to the Academic Colarassi to make sketches. 

To Gauguin himself this was an enjoyable relaxa- 
tion for his leisure hours, a kind of intellectual sport 
which fascinated and tranquillized him after the 
dry, mechanical work of the day, the noting of prices 
and investments which had a stimulating, but at the 
same time a blunting effect on him, since according 
to his idea all this work only produced negative 
values. But it also tickled his vanity and in a way 
spurred his desire of self-assertion, when his draw- 
ings and paintings gave a result satisfactory to his 
eye. Actually he had no conscious artistic aim. His 
colour sense was uncertain and approached that of 
the Fontainebleau school, and his drawing was con- 
ventional, with a very careful study of the model. 
It was the purely manual element that occupied him. 
For this reason his visits to exhibitions became more 
frequent and he now had a more observant eye for 
technical niceties. At the Colarassi he joined cc les 
fauves" the wild beasts who scorned the corrections 



of a teacher, and here he listened to the budding 
artists' discussions for and against the elect of the 
Salon. Most of them, like Schuff enecker, sided with 
the Impressionists, who in '72 had held their first 
exhibition at Nadar's. He had noticed their work, 
especially that of Renoir, but they had no very great 
attraction for him. He was more occupied with f orm, 
simple and perfect. He admired an artist like Millet. 
The big, powerful women that painter drew ap- 
pealed to his eye, and the primitive strength, the 
vigorous, naked luxuriance of life and nature in 
Millet's art had more to say to his mind and senses 
than the beauty of the momentary vision. 

But the more Gauguin worked with his mate- 
rial and discovered all the difficulties involved, the 
greater was its fascination for him, and for the fun 
of the thing he sent in a picture for the Salon of '76 
and got it accepted. A landscape, careful and elabo- 
rate in its workmanship, the prevailing tones of 
which were dark green and grey. A new name in 
the Salon, but no new note that was capable of at- 
tracting attention. Nor did he himself attach much 
importance to his " debut " as an artist. Neither his 
friend Schuffenecker nor his wife knew anything 
about it. 

For that matter, his work at the bank gave him 
enough to think about. Calzado had entrusted him 
with the important and responsible task of closing 
the day's current business on the Bourse, and, con- 


fiding in his calm judgment and wishing to encour- 
age him, had given him a free hand to an extent 
which enabled Gauguin to do business on his own ac- 
count. Although, to begin with, his profits did not 
amount to much as usual he went to work calmly 
and systematically they were sufficient to let him 
turn his thoughts to a more commodious home. This 
became all the more necessary as on Christmas Eve 
1876 his wife presented him with a daughter, who 
was named after his mother. 

In the spring they moved into a new apartment, 
No. 79 rue des Fourneaux, in a house owned by the 
well-known marble-cutter Paul Bouillot, who had 
his workshop across the yard. Here Gauguin had 
opportunities of seeing how a work of sculpture was 
transferred to stone and it interested him to such an 
extent that he himself took to modelling a bust 
of his wife which Bouillot carved in marble, with 
himself as a pupil. And as the next step he him- 
self under Bouillot's direction cut the bust he had 
modelled of his son fimile. With growing aston- 
ishment the skilful craftsman witnessed the young 
stockbroker's dexterity and sure eye for form, and 
the work helped Gauguin himself to develop his 
sense for material and for form, which plays a far 
more important part in sculpture than in painting, 
where so many other factors contribute to give effec- 
tive expression to the eye's conception of reality. 

Nevertheless it was the material that attracted 


him most. Even if its decorative possibilities were 
not yet quite clear to him, it delighted him to sur- 
round himself with beautiful things ; he liked to ar- 
range his home, to choose its colours; he would even 
take to embroidery on occasion and showed a fond- 
ness for vivid colours. He bought oriental carpets and 
earthenware, particularly Rouen faience with its 
richly coloured decoration. His taste was not marked 
by any definite sense of style, but all the things with 
which he surrounded himself showed quality and 
decorative pictorial feeling, and anything like sym- 
metry was almost tabooed. 

All this bore witness to Gauguin's domesticity, 
and in her own way Mette was equally fond of her 
borne; but she had far more taste for society than he 
ind saw how important it would be for him as a busi- 
ntess man to extend his circle of acquaintance. But in 
ihis she had little or no support from him, so that 
:he company they entertained consisted mainly of 
ler women friends. He acted the polite host until 
;he conversation was well started, but seized the first 
)pportunity of vanishing quietly. And she had grown 
io used to his doing exactly what suited him that she 
vas neither surprised nor annoyed when one eve- 
ling, after having been absent a good while, he came 
>ack in his nightshirt and begged the ladies not to 
et him interrupt them, he had only come to get a 
)0ok. His manner was so calm and so natural that 
lobody felt any awkwardness in continuing the con- 


versation, which had scarcely been disturbed by this 
unusual, but actually rather amusing interlude. 

As a matter of fact, the sense of independence 
which Gauguin asserted so strongly suited her quite 
well. With her emphatically active nature she had 
enough to occupy her, and he very seldom troubled 
her with any requests which limited her freedom of 
movement. She may have thought a little more ap- 
preciation of her initiative was due to her; but she 
was bound to acknowledge on her side that she took 
no interest at all in what obviously concerned him 
most, though she made up for it by the pride and 
admiration she showed for his capability and accu- 
racy in business and was appreciative of his gener- 
osity in all money matters. She herself was not close- 
fisted, but life had taught her the necessity of a 
certain degree of economy and carefulness. Paul on 
the other hand had an almost unlimited confidence 
in his power of finding money. On this as on most 
other points he was an incorrigible optimist, but at 
the same time he worked like a horse. She might 
often silently thank providence that he had no 
exaggerated craving for luxuries. The only thing 
was a certain weakness for narcotics, such as tobacco 
and brandy, without their having any apparent ef- 
fect on him. 

Mette had no cause for complaint, nor did she 
complain. Her letters home were as contented as 
they were matter-of-fact. Paul works hard and 



makes money 5 even in his leisure he has to occupy 
himself with something, and at present he is gener- 
ally busy with painting and drawing. Both the chil- 
dren are well. mile rather fidgety and troublesome, 
but Aline quiet and thoughtful like her father. She 
herself is fit and well. Rather sorry that she is going 
to have another child. Such, more or less, was the 
tenor of most of her letters ; rarely if ever did they 
contain a hint of homesickness. 

In May 1879 Clovis was born, a fine big baby 
like the others, but fair. 

Even after the acceptance of his picture by the 
Salon, Gauguin had no claim to call himself an art- 
ist, but his eyes were becoming more and more open 
to the fact that the progress he was making in his 
painting had a greater positive value for him than 
was offered by his business. His works did not yet 
satisfy his personal ambition, but they opened up a 
prospect of something which occupied his conscious- 
ness in a far higher degree than the almost mechani- 
cal game of the Bourse. It did not occur to him 
outside business hours to look up people who might 
give him useful information for his stock-exchange 
operations. On the other hand he called on art dealers 
and through them met artists who, very differently 
from his colleagues in the bank, gave him the assur- 
ance that there are values one can neither buy nor 

The artists he met in this way were very young 


men, all more or less taken up with new ideas about 
painting and by the stir they were making, not only 
in artistic circles, but also among a certain section of 
the public. The agitation ran high around the Im- 
pressionists in particular, a group of young painters 
who as yet had no definite program, but who 'by 
holding exhibitions of their own were beginning to 
assert themselves in the face of the official Salon, 
where the leading men in their hidebound interpre- 
tation of classical ideals did what they could to ex- 
clude everything which might be suspected of aim- 
ing at other assthetic values than those prescribed 
by the worthy representatives of official art in the 
French Republic. In fact they even looked with dis- 
trust on all art which reflected the enjoyment of life 
so splendidly expressed by French painters before 
the great Revolution. It not only offended their re- 
publican views but often gave them a feeling that 
revolutionary opinions opposed to the French Re- 
public were about to assert themselves. Art had be- 
come a vehicle of propaganda for moral and political 
opinions and had degenerated into a conception of 
style to which the official academy had given its ap- 
proval as art. But it was a conception of style which 
had nothing to do with the healthy life of the French 
citizen, and when that life was depicted it was quite 
likely to raise a scandal. A guard had to be posted 
by Manet's Olymfia to prevent its being damaged 
by a public which was scandalized because the nude 



model was a pretty girl of the people with a simple 
black velvet ribbon round her throat, and not as she 
ought to have been, a courtesan fresh from the hair- 

At the beginning of the seventies the Impression- 
ists were no esoteric circle that had formed about a 
common artistic aim* but it chanced that just in those 
years a number of sound., vigorous., and independent 
talents came to maturity, to whom nature and life 
had more to say than had the approved interpreta- 
tion thereof. They needed light, air, and natural life 
in order to expand j and they all felt that the atmos- 
phere of the official Salon did not supply this need. 
But it was the road which led, by way of critics and 
art dealers to the public. A new road must therefore 
be opened up, but where? Perhaps through Nadar 
in the boulevard des Capucines, who speculated in 
novelties and had already found room for such curi- 
osities as Renoir, Monet, and Pissarro. Or through 
Durand-Ruel in the rue le Peletier, who had reso- 
lutely backed fidouard Manet, the most discussed 
artist in Paris at that time, for years refused or de- 
monstratively mishung at the Salon, abused by the 
critics of the leading newspapers, and often pilloried 
there for the benefit of the art-loving public which 
was easily scandalized 5 defended by powerful but 
dangerous pens like Zola and Baudelaire, and ad- 
mired by those contemporary artists who could see a 
future for French art. He himself would only ac- 


knowledge the Salon as his forum, in spite of the 
terrible fits of despondency to which its ill-treatment 
year by year subjected his sensitive and lofty spirit. 
L Well might his friend Baudelaire write to Champ- 
fleury : cc Manet has a forceful talent, a talent which 
will carry him on, but he has a weak character. He 
seems stupefied and reduced to despair by the shock. 
What also strikes me is the joy of the blockheads, 
who believe him to be lost." 

Baudelaire was actually rather alarmed about 
Manet's state of mind, which made him write to a 
woman friend of himself and Manet: 

" When you see Manet tell him this from me 
that all kinds of opposition, scorn, insults, injustice, 
are excellent things, and that he is an ungrateful per- 
son if he does not thank them. I know very well that 
he will find a certain difficulty in understanding my 
theory. Painters always desire immediate success. 
The truth is that Manet's gifts are so splendid and 
so easy to work with that he is bound to be miserable 
if he loses courage. He will never be able entirely to 
bridge over the gaps in his temperament. But he has 
a temperament, that is the main thing, and he does 
not seem to see that the greater the injustice, the bet- 
ter will be his position so long as he does not lose 
his head. I am sure you will be able to say all this to 
him in a light-hearted way, so as not to wound him. 75 

But although Manet was extremely sensitive he 
never turned bitter or bore a grudge against anyone, 



and he never lost courage for long. Right up to the 
time of his too early death in 1883 he sent his pic- 
tures almost yearly to the Salon and it was only in 
the two last years that they received the treatment 
to which they were entitled. 

Thus he always declined to send anything to other 
collective exhibitions, even when the Impressionists 
decided to hold their first exhibition at Nadar's in 
the boulevard des Capucines. 

It was this exhibition, by the way, which gave 
them their name, and this was due to a picture by 
Claude Monet called UImfression y which was ridi- 
culed by the critics as " indeed nothing but an im- 
pression. And for that matter the same might be 
said of most of the pictures exhibited." The tone 
adopted by official criticism, led by Albert Wolff, 
the dreaded art critic of the Figaro, a blend of vio- 
lent indignation and ridicule, piqued the curiosity of 
the public and brought crowds to the exhibition. 
Contact had now been established with the pub- 
lic; although, to begin with, their attitude was not 
friendly, at any rate people did not pass by indiffer- 
ently. Attention had been aroused, and this would 
lead to understanding. And in the following years 
the Impressionists held exhibitions at various places, 
Durand-RuePs among others, until at the end of the 
seventies the Salon des Independants was instituted, 
where anyone could exhibit without being passed by 
a hanging committee. This exhibition, which a few 


years later became a permanent institution, had the 
support of the most notable o those artists who had 
previously arranged the exhibition at Nadar's. 

As has been said above, the Impressionists could 
not be described as a group with any definite pro- 
gram, nor had they in a strict sense anyone who could 
be called a leader. The most significant among them, 
such as Renoir, Cezanne, and Degas, had neither the 
personal qualities nor the desire to gather a following 
about them. Renoir was too simple and modest, 
Cezanne too little interested in other men's work, 
and Degas too solitary and retiring by nature. If he 
took part in these exhibitions it was chiefly out of 
sympathy with and interest in the efforts of younger 
artists, and because these, in addition to their ad- 
miration for him as an artist, had an immense respect 
for his unusually open-minded and authoritative 
judgment of art in general. His view of it was not 
determined by the question whether the thing was 
beautiful, but by its character and harmony, with a 
very strong sense for and a keen perception of the 
distinguishing marks of technique, and, above all, of 
the characteristic movements and balance of the 
human body in every natural function. For these 
reasons he quarrelled with the official art of the Salon. 
Not only that, but he had gradually acquired a pro- 
found distrust of its leaders and their motives. He 
belonged to a very influential and wealthy family 
and thus was well acquainted with the circles who 


took part in the annual function of the opening of the 
Salon. He had soon observed that the considerations 
on which the choice of works was based had little to 
do with art and were often scarcely compatible with 
its nature and checked any free and independent de- 
velopment of art. His strong self-dependence soon 
disgusted him with all this cliquishness 5 the fash- 
ionable drawing-rooms of the day were no places 
for him. All his interests were bound up with his art. 
When he appeared in the pulsating life of Paris it 
was only for the sake of observing it 5 he led as a rule 
a very retired life, and as he was financially inde- 
pendent publicity was not necessary to him as to so 
many other artists. This again made him sympa- 
thetic to the efforts younger artists were making to 
arrive at a personal form. He interested himself in 
their work and was willing to support their efforts 
to find a public} but his participation in their ex- 
hibitions did not mean much more than this. 

More than any other, Camille Pissarro was the 
driving power of the movement. He was the old- 
est of them, born in 1830 in the Danish West In- 
dies. His father was of Portuguese- Jewish descent, 
French-born, and his mother was a Creole. Camille 
Pissarro had received a commercial education, but 
had given up business at the age of twenty-five in 
order to become a painter. Properly speaking he had 
had no teacher, nor had he attended any studio. His 
talent was neither particularly rich nor individual, 


but he was a gifted, intelligent man with a very 
delicate artistic instinct. Apart from seven years' 
schooling in Paris he had spent his whole childhood 
and youth in the West Indies, and before he made 
up his mind to be a painter he had travelled a good 
deal in South America. His vision had thus been de- 
veloped by a great variety of foreign influences. And 
as he was no ordinary observer, but on the contrary 
a very accurate inquirer, he had arrived even as a 
young man at a very personal way of looking at 
things which did not come to rest when confronted 
with the artistic prototypes he found in Paris. His 
whole development therefore is marked by a con- 
tinual quest. At first he admired Corot most of all. 
Corot's vigorous and healthy worship of nature and 
the brilliance of his colouring gave him a wealth of 
inspiration, but the artless, almost religiously simple 
relation between this master and his motive was 
foreign to Pissarro's inquiring and decidedly theo- 
retical nature. It found no favourable soil in a mind 
and an artistic talent which had first to be cultivated 
by the intellect. Intellect he had, and he knew how 
to use his eyes with an uncommon insight into artis- 
tic values, coupled with a special capacity for inves- 
tigating the technical possibilities of the material. A 
cool flame burned in his soul, and after prolonged 
search and many changes in his point of view he pro- 
duced works of great value, inspired by a vigorous 
and healthy delight in nature and a rich and brilliant 



use of colour. This was due in great measure to the 
younger painters whose leader he became, in a way, 
under the name of the Impressionists. He for his part 
was useful to them through his clear and intelligent 
criticism and through interpreting to them things 
which they had not yet thoroughly sifted. While 
many of those who had founded the school, and 
among them the most significant, deserted or, like 
Renoir and Cezanne, entirely renounced it, Pissarro 
continued to uphold Impressionism and laid down 
its artistic program. He thus acquired a very con- 
siderable influence over the young painters who en- 
tered the world of art in the midst of the conflicts 
that announced the modern movement, not only in 
France, but all over Europe. 

The artists whom Paul Gauguin met at first were 
not among the most important and their notions of 
the still rather vague idea of Impressionism as a form 
whose special object was to seize the flying moment 
did not appear immediately obvious and afforded 
him no satisfactory solution of the very important 
problems with which Manet, Degas, and Renoir 
were struggling, artists who appealed more and more 
to his attention. Without its being clear to himself, 
it was the very nature of art that now absorbed him. 

What previously was only an occupation for his 
leisure hours now became a subject for reflection 
which engaged him continually, in spite of the in- 
creasing success of his business on the Bourse, which 







enabled him without diffidence to rent a little house 
in the rue Carcel. TheThouse, which belonged to the 
painter Jobbe-Duval, had a little garden attached 
to it, surrounded by a high wall, and a studio where 
he could work in peace at his paintings on holidays 
and in the evenings. In the rue Carcel their third 
child, Clovis, was born and Mette had her hands full 
with looking after the house and the children. She 
was happy and contented; Paul's painting mania, 
as she called it, disturbed her as little as it interested 
her. Paul attended to his business, made money, 
spared no expense to make his home pretty and com- 
fortable, and, now that he had provided himself with 
a work-room, was nearly always at home. Though 
perhaps Mette might have wished herself a more 
sociable and entertaining husband, she appreciated 
his chivalry, the care he took for the welfare of her- 
self and the children, and the esteem with which he 
obviously regarded her own good humour. Her 
abundance of this quality and her sense of comedy 
would often make her slightly vexed with the solemn 
way in which he took everything and with the im- 
possibility of ever making him laugh. But on the 
other hand he would astonish her with his clear, 
sound judgment of people and affairs and with the 
downright way in which he expressed his opinion 
without showing any surprise if she or others dif- 
fered from it. Mette was content. Even if Paul was 
heavy, he was not difficult and never laid any re- 



straint on her freedom of action., which to her was 
one of the most essential good things of life. 

Nor did Gauguin complain of his life; his ample 
income gave him full opportunity of pursuing his 
interests, even though the bank took up rather much 
of his valuable time. To be sure, he encountered ever 
increasing difficulties in his painting. The criticism 
he directed against the painters with whom he mixed 
recoiled very often on himself and gave him no more 
encouragement than did the admiration of his friend 
Schuffenecker. He often felt himself to be what 
most of the others regarded him, the banker's clerk, 
whose pictures appeared astonishing, considering his 
position, but were not to be taken too seriously. 
Mette's jocular allusions to his idee fixe were not 
always passed over in silence, but his desire to pene- 
trate to the root of the matter continued, growing 
more urgent day by day. 

One day chance threw him together with Camille 
Pissarro. And Gauguin interested Pissarro. He him- 
self had been in business and there was something in 
Gauguin's character and personality which told him 
that the exotic and somewhat unusual elements in 
the young Parisian banker had points of contact with 
similar features in himself. This not merely inter- 
ested him, it aroused his sympathy; and the feeling 
was mutual. When Pissarro spoke about art in his 
thorough, rather dogmatic way, Gauguin listened 
attentively and understood his theories far better 


than the painters' jargon he had been accustomed to 
hear. It was not merely the other's personality that 
attracted him; he felt that all his own endeavours 
to arrive at clarity concerning the nature of painting 
might find an excellent support in the realism with 
which Pissarro treated the subject and in the very 
thorough study this artist, who was nearing fifty, had 
devoted to painting before he himself had arrived at 
a form which satisfied him. 

Gauguin invited Pissarro to visit him, and from 
that time the leading thread in Gauguin's life began 
to be spun in earnest. Mette had no presentiment 
that this man was destined to exert a fateful influence 
over her husband ; she was only glad that at last he 
should bring a visitor to the house. She liked Pissarro 
and he soon came to enjoy her society, so it was not 
long before he was a constant guest at the rue Car eel. 
He and she quickly discovered that they were in a 
way compatriots, and even if this circumstance in it- 
self did not mean very much it provided a certain 
bond of union which facilitated the transition from 
polite conversation to natural companionship. Mette 
had confidence in this man who obviously had a good 
influence on Paul's spirits, which during the last year . 
had frequently been somewhat depressing. She was 
quite aware that he stimulated her husband's paint- 
ing hobby, but even he did not seem to take it too 
seriously. Pissarro, however, thought there was noth- 
ing better or more wholesome than that a business 



man should follow in his leisure time an interest 
which gave a meaning to his existence. Her husband 
had talent and if led in the right direction it would 
enhance his obvious interest in art and strengthen 
his already very lively sense of its real values. At 
the same time art had a financial value. If one bought 
with intelligence and understanding one might be 
laying up a capital which would go on increasing, 
while at the same time one's walls would give pleas- 
ure and intellectual cultivation. Pissarro was con- 
vinced that works by the young men who were now 
championing new ideas would increase considerably 
in value. One might buy pictures by Manet, Renoir, 
and Cezanne at prices which in twenty years' time 
would have risen tenfold. To a smart man of busi- 
ness an interest in art was only a stimulant, which 
enhanced his sense of the real value of money as in- 
strumental in useful production. As a commodity 
money was valueless, it merely passed from one 
pocket to another. With this Gauguin entirely 
agreed, as did his wife in a way, only she thought 
there were more useful things than pictures. As the 
daughter of an official she had not much grasp of 
capital-appreciation. She judged future prospects 
from the point of view of increased or diminished 
income. That a painting or a piece of furniture might 
cost a cabinet minister's salary astonished her beyond 
measure. She found it altogether unreasonable and 


That Paul, instead of playing billiards and spend- 
ing his money at the cafe sat at home messing about 
with a paint-brush for his own amusement was really 
an excellent thing. His income had now reached a 
far higher figure than she had ever dreamed of. No 
doubt it did give her something of a shock when her 
husband got their nurse Justine, a strong, good- 
looking woman with black hair and a white skin, to 
sit to him in the nude. But Justine told her mistress 
that that was nothing out of the way why, she 
had sat to Delacroix himself, so Madame need not 

Pissarro was a theorist and at the same time a 
practical man. To him art was not only a manifesta- 
tion of talent and inspiration, it was just as much a 
handicraft of very high value, to the technique 
of which he had devoted an ardent study. As a 
landscape-painter he had occupied himself specially 
with the light-effects of colour and had endeavoured 
assiduously to achieve these effects without having to 
impair the intrinsic value of the primary colours. 
He was not the first to make practical use in painting 
of the fact that the very source of light, the light of 
the sun, is split up by the spectrum into the primary 
colours, but he was one of the first who tried to carry 
it out consistently, and perhaps he was the most zeal- 
ous preacher of the gospel of the primary colours. 
Nothing could have been better for Gauguin. Quite 
unconsciously he had always felt the attraction of 



strong and pure colour, but he had never succeeded 
in achieving it in his painting. Now Pissarro put him 
on the right road, and even if the older man had no 
exaggerated idea of Gauguin's talent, he had to ac- 
knowledge that his pupil showed an uncommon apti- 
tude in setting his palette with pure and strong 
colours and in using them with a boldness and a sense 
of vigorous and harmonious combinations which 
were surprising. But Gauguin seemed disinclined to 
adopt the actual principle of arranging the primary 
colours in a definite order so that together they 
formed a unity which evoked the idea of light, re- 
flection, and shade ; whereas he endeavoured to com- 
bine a plastic feeling with a decorative colour 
harmony. And Pissarro with his strict and consistent 
upholding of purely pictorial principles considered 
this altogether too aimless. He was inclined to look 
upon his pupil as an amateur with a highly developed 
sense of artistic values and a gift for expressing this 
sense, now in painting, now in purely decorative 
schemes, and now in sculpture, both clay-modelling 
and wood-carving. 

Everything this man laid his hands on had to be 
shaped in some way or other, but without any defi- 
nite line, and evidently with no other object than 
satisfying his personal taste. 

Gauguin never let it be known that Pissarro had 
found him the means of overcoming many of the 
obstacles he had previously had to contend with. He 


grappled with greater problems, especially figure 
subjects, which had always been his chief interest. 
Mette was reluctantly pressed into the service, now 
in her evening dress with the pink bodice., low neck, 
and short sleeves, which showed off her full figure, 
now in a comfortable everyday frock, busy with her 
needlework. She found it consumedly boring, but 
was nevertheless rather flattered and reassured by his 
intense occupation with her luxuriant charms, and 
she noticed also that it increased the intimacy of their 
relations if she thus participated in what was his 
chief interest. At the same time she felt instinctively 
that it would not do to let Justine be the only one to 
foster this. When she saw him at his easel she had an 
inkling of the turmoil that was seething in her hus- 
band's mind. And thank goodness she had not sat to 
Delacroix himself. 

In reality Gauguin was leading a double life and 
beginning to play for high stakes in both of them. 
With decided success as far as the Bourse was con- 
cerned. In one year he made forty thousand francs, 
so he had no hesitation in satisfying the desire he had 
long felt of buying pictures. He spent fifteen thou- 
sand francs at a stroke. And guided by his own expert 
eye, aided by Pissarro's advice and good connections, 
he bought well and cheaply, so that he acquired at 
once an excellent collection of pictures by Manet, 
Renoir, Degas, Sisley, Cezanne, Pissarro and Guil- 
laumin. The two last-named he knew very well per- 


sonally. Pissarro had brought Guillaumin to visit 
him, but the pictures he valued most were Cezanne's, 
in spite of their detesting each other. Pissarro, who 
was a very good friend of Cezanne, had several times 
tried to bring them together, and the Cezannes did 
not live far from the rue Carcel. But Cezanne en- 
tertained a very decided distrust of everything that 
smacked of the bourgeois ; he could not stand Manet, 
for instance, whose outward appearance was that of 
the elegant boulevardier. Gauguin was to him merely 
the well-dressed banker, and besides that he was by 
no means unassuming in his criticism of art and 
literature. Thus he failed to realize the importance 
of Zola. In his opinion this author's novels were con- 
cerned far too much with people's digestions, good 
or bad. And what language! 

a In fimile Zola's books the washerwoman and 
the concierge both speak a French which I don't find 
inspiring. When they stop talking Zola continues 
without suspecting it in the same tone and the same 
kind of French." 

An utterance like this annoyed Cezanne, who was 
a friend and admirer of Zola. For his part Gauguin 
looked upon the rude and somewhat unkempt Pro- 
vengal, whose language was apt to be pretty coarse, 
as a boor whom it was best to keep at a distance. And 
Cezanne's complete indifference to money, with the 
irregularities in money matters that resulted from it, 
was not to his liking. He himself had always been 


very strict in these matters, and it made him ex- 
tremely unhappy to find himself momentarily in a 
position where he could not pay his way. Indeed, he 
carried his dislike so far as to forbid his six-year-old 
son fimile to play with Cezanne's son Paul, who was 
a little older. But he admired the painter Cezanne to 
the extent of copying one of his pictures. He also 
copiedI)avid y sJosephandPotiphar's Wife. The plas- 
ticity which these two painters had arrived at, each 
in his own way, interested him in the highest degree, 
but he still did not see how he was to combine this 
with a vigorous and decorative colouring without 
violating his sense of reality and his instinct for na- 
ture. Japanese woodcuts gave him a pointer. They 
combine the decorative with a reality and to some 
extent also with nature, but give no expression of 
that delight in form which he admired in Ingres 
and Millet, and have none of the purely sensuous 
feeling for nature which is expressed so wonderfully 
by these two peasant lads, though without the simple 
and uncompounded feeling of form that Gauguin 
had found in primitive art at the Musee Guimet, 
which he visited so often to refresh his memories of 
childhood and of his life at sea. And this gave rise 
to vague longings for something widely separated 
from his present position. Not in one way alone, but 
in many ways he felt he was a square peg in a round 
hole. His position in society as a business man did not 
entitle him to entertain these longings, nor indeed 


to regard himself seriously as an artist. And nobody 
else took him seriously as an artist. He himself often 
had doubts; his versatile gifts, his complicated na- 
ture continually involved him in artistic problems 
for the satisfactory solution of which he, as a Euro- 
pean, a Frenchman, and a Parisian, possessed too few 
data, especially now that all contemporary art, which 
he admired in many ways, was so typically French. 

As yet all his efforts led only to vague results; but 
even though he occasionally had to agree with his 
master Pissarro that his attempts were amateurish, 
the dream was taking shape within him, he had an 
idea of its outlines. His imagination had taken him 
captive; induced by his self-confidence and opti- 
mism, he made up his mind to exhibit at the Salon 
des Independants in 1880. His pictures, a number 
of landscapes, were received with the benevolence 
shown to a man who had made good progress, obvi- 
ously due to the judicious guidance of Pissarro. 

An attention which, broadly speaking, was not 
overwhelmingly encouraging. A chance meeting 
with Manet did something to restore his self-confi- 
dence. Manet spoke of his pictures with kindly ap- 
preciation, and not knowing quite how to take this 
praise from the much-admired master, Gauguin 
apologized for himself, saying he was a business man 
who only painted in his spare time. Only an amateur, 
in fact. " Oh," said Manet, " the only amateurs are 
those who paint bad pictures." A fairly innocent re- 

1 880 







mark, but it went home. So he wasn't merely an ama- 
teur a dilettante. That was just what he wanted 
to hear. 

The following year was in many ways a decisive 
one in his career. I his self-confidence had faded 
somewhat into the background, his ambition had 
taken its place. He determined now to prove to him- 
self and others that he was a painter, and he grappled 
with exacting problems, in which the figure was of 
paramount importance; amoag them a fairly large 
picture with Justine as his model, sitting naked on 
the side of a bed and mending her linen. And side 
by side with his painting he worked at wood-carving, 
among other things a little chest with reliefs after 
Degas's ballet-girls. In that year Degas had con- 
tributed to the exhibition a series of his pictures of 
the ballet, and Gauguin had been much struck by 
them. Here he found something of what he was seek- 
ing, the interplay of civilized scenes and primitive 
forces. A connection between decorative form and 
rhythmical movement from real life. Unvarnished 
truth and the primitive beauty of the human body 
are sharply outlined, inspired by a wonderful sen- 
sitiveness, behind the external and decorative mask 
with which Degases models are nearly always pro- 

When Gauguin chose Justine as his model it was 
in the first place because she belonged to the luxuri- 
ant tyj^e qf womanhood he liked and was decidedly 


picturesque with her resplendent black hair and 
white skin, in which the shadows were cold in con- 
trast to the slightly pink tone of the lights, and also 
because Justine was always available whenever he 
had time and opportunity for painting. Age and hard 
work had both left their marks on her figure and 
taken some of the gloss off the health and beauty it 
had undoubtedly possessed in her youth. The ab- 
domen had become rather too big and flabby and the 
tight stays had left their mark on the soft feminine 
skin, so that breast and hips were a little exagger- 
ated. But Gauguin saw right through all this and 
penetrated to the great simple beauty of the living 
human form. Without in any way altering or im- 
proving what gave Justine's body its character, he 
painted a picture in which form and colour together 
made a harmonious whole. By her individuality and 
by the liberated charm of her nudity she awakened 
forces within him, as a man and as an observer 
of nature's fertile beauty in proportion, form, and 

With redoubled intensity Gauguin worked both 
at home and in his business, and the luck that at- 
tended him in the latter sphere did a good deal to 
strengthen his confidence in arriving at successful re- 
sults in his painting; so that when the Salon des In- 
dependants was about to open, he did not hesitate 
to send in a number of pictures, among them the nude 
study of Justine. 


And this time his contribution did not pass un- 
noticed. The nude study received such commenda- 
tion from J. K. Huysmans as would never again fall 
to his lot. At that time Huysmans, in addition to his 
extremely contentious work as an author, had come 
forward as the most zealous but at the same time the 
most exacting champion of modern art, which gave 
him an important place in the circle of which Pis- 
sarro was in a way the leader. His notice of Gauguin 
is clear enough. 

" Last year Gauguin exhibited for the first time. 
A series of landscapes which were a watering-down 
of works, still irresolute, by Pissarro. This year Gau- 
guin makes his appearance with a canvas which is all 
his own, one which reveals the incontestable tem- 
perament of a modern painter. 

" It bears the title : Study of the Nude. ... I do 
not shrink from affirming that among contemporary 
painters who have treated the nude, none has yet 
given so vehement an expression of reality; and I 
do not except Courbet, whose Woman with a Parrot 
is no more true to life in its pose than in its flesh, or 
Lef ebvre's Femme couchee, or CabanePs Venus a la 
creme. Courbet's paint is thickly laid on in the style 
of Louis Philippe's time, whereas in the other more 
modern painters the flesh quivers like a badly boiled 
pudding. This, by the way, is the only difference be- 
tween these artists. If Courbet had not introduced a 
modern crinoline thrown over the end of the bed, his 

-6 9 - 


woman might just as well have been entitled nymph 
or naiad. It is a trick of detail and nothing else that 
makes her a woman of today. 

" In Gauguin's picture there is nothing of this 
sort; it is a girl of our day and a girl who does not 
exhibit herself to the gallery, who is neither voluptu- 
ous nor coquettish, who is quite simply mending her 

cc And the skin is very expressive; it is not that 
smooth, sleek skin, without goose-flesh, without 
pouches or nodules, that skin which has been dipped 
in rosewater and ironed smooth, such as we see in 
other painters. It is skin which is flushed with blood, 
and beneath it nerves are quivering. And what truth 
there is in these forms, in the rather bulky abdomen 
sagging on to the thighs, in the swelling breasts with 
furrows under them, in the angular bend of the knee, 
and in the calluses on the wrists that are bending over 
the chemise! 

" I am happy to be able to give my approval to a 
painter who, like myself, shows a pronounced dis- 
taste for mannequins with model pink breasts and 
hard narrow stomachs, mannequins who are ready 
to drop with so-called good taste, drawn after plaster 
casts according to receipt. 

" Oh, the naked woman! Who has painted her 
really and perfectly, without deliberate prearrange- 
ment, without falsification of feature and flesh? Who 
has done it so that we can see the nationality of an 


undressed woman, the age she belongs to, the calling 
she follows, and whether she is untouched or de- 
flowered? Who has put her on canvas so real and 
alive that we have been able to dream of the life she 
leads, and almost to look for the marks of childbear- 
ing on her loins, to reconstruct her pains and her joys 
and to enter for a few minutes into her existence? 

cc In spite of the mythological titles and the fan- 
tastic garments in which he dresses his models, Rem- 
brandt is to this day the only one who has painted the 

a In the absence of a genius like that wonderful 
painter it is to be desired that painters of talent like 
Gauguin should do for their age what van Rijn did 
for his. That they should find their way to the mo- 
ments which make the nude possible, in bed, in the 
studio, in the amphitheatre, and in the bath, and 
re-create French women who were not built up of 
fragments, with arms belonging to one model, head 
and stomach to another, and in addition a tinkering 
counterfeit of the methods of the old masters. 

" But, alas! these wishes have little chance of ful- 
filment while people are still shut up in galleries, 
filled with balderdash about art, and made to copy 
the antique. Nobody tells them that beauty is not uni- 
form or unalterable, that it changes according to 
climate and century, that the Venus of Milo, to take 
one example, is neither more interesting nor more 
beautiful now than, the ancient Indian statues that 



are covered with tattoo-marks and wear feathered 
head-dresses. That neither the one nor the other is 
more than an expression of the ideal of beauty pursued 
by the different races, and that today it is not a ques- 
tion of hitting off the beautiful by means of a Vene- 
tian, Greek, Dutch, or Flemish rite, but of making 
an effort to distil the life of our own time in the 
world that surrounds us. And the beautiful is there, 
but the unfortunates who have rummaged around 
in the galleries of the Louvre cannot see on coming 
out into the street that girls are going past shedding 
a delightful charm of languishing youth to which 
the lack of oxygen in the city air lends a divine glam- 
our. The nude is there, underneath the tight-fitting 
armour which clings to arms and thighs, modelling 
the form of hips and trunk and raising the breasts. 
A nudity which is the result of effort, delicate, re- 
fined, and vibrating. A civilized nudity the fatigued 
charm of which may reduce one to despair. 

" Oh, I can't help laughing at the Winkelmanns 
and Sejerstedts who shed tears of admiration before 
Greek nudity and make bold to proclaim that beauty 
has permanently taken refuge in these masses of 

" And I repeat, Gauguin has been the first for 
ever so long to attempt to portray the woman of our 
time, and, in spite of the heaviness of the shadow 
thrown by the face across the model's breast, he has 


been entirely successful, and he has accomplished a 
bold and completely independent work." 

Gauguin was not left in doubt that Huysmans in 
any case took him quite seriously as an artist. It was 
true that the Impressionist circle looked upon Huys- 
mans rather as a poet, considering him as something 
of a pioneer of the Impressionist movement in litera- 
ture. His criticisms were therefore determined to a 
great extent by the mood of the moment and were 
apt to be capricious, and his language might be either 
trenchant or flowery. Not infrequently his pen ran 
away with him in one direction or the other. But he 
had always been a warm and enthusiastic champion 
of Manet, Degas, and Cezanne, the contemporary 
artists whom Gauguin valued most. His entirely 
unreserved appreciation of Gauguin's nude study 
and his comprehension of the meaning of the picture 
were calculated effectually to restore the painter's 
confidence in himself. He saw very clearly that as 
his work hitherto had been divided between two 
widely divergent interests, it was not very strange 
that most people, even those who knew him well, 
took a rather sceptical view of his painting. Who 
could guess that this department of his activity did 
not bring him any real satisfaction? The effective 
way in which he worked at it rather suggested the 
contrary. But it was a little painful nevertheless to 
notice that the friendly indulgence with which his 



painting was received was almost always evoked by 
the modest attitude he himself usually adopted when 
speaking of his art, especially in the presence of those 
artists who really meant something to him. There- 
fore Huysmans's powerful appeal to him as an artist 
did him good. It came in a way as a surprise, and its 
effect was therefore the stronger. 

His attitude was no longer quite so modest; he 
gave his opinion more firmly, as the direct and con- 
fident expression of his personal conception of the 
nature of painting. The stockbroker retired more 
into the background and the artist began to assert 

Mette was the last to discover this, she was now so 
used to Paul's downright way of expressing his opin- 
ion and to its always differing from that of other 
people; and she had quite ceased to pay any attention 
to his hobby, especially after he had left off using her 
as a model. Besides, she had enough on her hands 
with looking after the children, and another was 
expected. But her friends of both sexes were more 
observant of her husband's rather curious manner. 
And particularly a couple of Norwegian painters 
who had lately come on a visit, after her sister and 
her husband, the Norwegian painter Fritz Thaulow, 
had settled in Paris for a time. They liked the lively, 
sociable, and witty Mette Gauguin, but thought her 
husband the banker a queer fish, inclined to be dis- 
agreeable, especially when the talk was of art, as it 


I 88 i 


was very often. The Norwegian painters had been 
studying under Leon Bonnat, whom they naturally 
admired, and one of them, Christian Skredsvig, had 
been awarded the gold medal at the Salon. One of 
the first occasions when he met Gauguin was at the 
Thaulows'. As usual Mette was the centre of a lively 
conversation, so Skredsvig, who was an amiable 
nature and in great spirits over his luck at the Salon, 
wanted to be pleasant to Mette Gauguin's husband, 
who seemed rather depressed and ill at ease in the 
company of these artists who had done well at the 
Salon, and to bring him into the general conversa- 
tion. " Splendid exhibition this year, lots of good pic- 
tures and not a few masterly ones, but Bonnat's Christ 
Crucified towers above them all. A little too realistic 
perhaps, rather brutal, but wonderfully painted, 
strong, manly in its expression! What do you think, 
Monsieur Gauguin? " 

"I? I only saw one picture in the Salon, and that 
was Manet's." 

Short and sweet, a smack in the face for the Nor- 
wegian painter, who was in the best of humours and 
only trying to be civil to the husband of his excellent 
friend Fritz's sister-in-law. Who would have guessed 
that that man of all others should hold such decided 
opinions about art? 

A little later he saw him go round the studio by 
himself with a big three-branched candlestick in his 
hand, studying Thaulow's pictures. He expressed his 



opinion by a shrug of the shoulders. His way of show- 
ing it was neither pleasant nor polite, but the almost 
unanimous enthusiasm this company showed for 
everything connected with the Salon irritated him 
so that he reacted rather curtly, wishing thereby to 
hint that other views might be justified, even if they 
came from a banker. It was excessively uncomfort- 
able to feel that he was between the devil and the 
deep sea, to have clear evidence that he would not be 
understood in any quarter if he cut himself adrift and 
gave up his position in the bank. Even the worthy 
Schuff enecker would be flabbergasted and would de- 
clare that if he himself left the bank and took to 
painting it would amount to much the same. His 
chances were not so good and he knew how to econo- 
mize, but as for Gauguin with his habits and his 
prospects it was sheer madness. Gauguin had a 
firm belief in himself as an artist, but the hostility 
with which he felt he would be surrounded alarmed 
him. He therefore kept the matter to himself and it 
impaired his working powers, with results that were 
specially noticeable in his painting. 

And in fact the pictures he exhibited at the Salon 
des Independants in the year following his suc- 
cess had an extremely unfavourable reception from 
Huysmans. The tone of his very brief notice was 
slighting in its condescension, and this irritated Gau- 
guin. The irritation did much to arouse his dormant 
consciousness that art demanded a final choice on his 


part, and at the end of the year he announced to his 
wife that he had left the bank. 

In reality this came as a complete surprise to 
Mette. She found it perfectly insane. All her former 
ideas about Paul were swept away. No doubt there 
were traits in his character which had always been 
alien to her. She sometimes joked about them, but as 
a rule she let them pass as things that concerned him 
alone 5 never had they led to any serious conflict be- 
tween them. But now the alien element had come to 
the surface ; it was a new husband that faced her and 
he was not to be trifled with. And she knew him 
well enough to be sure he would not say one thing 
today and another thing tomorrow. On the contrary, 
he could be unreasonably obstinate when once he had 
made a resolution, but she was bound to acknowledge 
that he scarcely ever did so without due considera- 
tion. The only hope was that he was overworked. 
He could not possibly be quite normal. And this view 
received animated support on all sides, even among 
Paul Gauguin's artist friends. Pissarro especially 
was dismayed to find that the good-natured instruc- 
tion with which he had helped a talented and in- 
terested business man had taken such an unfortu- 
nate turn. But of course it was quite on the cards that 
when once he was left in peace to devote himself en- 
tirely to his painting, Gauguin would very soon be 
brought to see that his ability as a painter was quite 
insufficient to enable him to reach his extremely am- 



bitious aims. For the present there was no imminent 
danger. He had put by enough capital for them to 
live on for some time to come, and Calzado promised 
that Gauguin's place should be kept open for him, 
whenever he chose to return. 

Gauguin was the only one who was quite clear 
about the significance of the resolution he had taken, 
but at the same time he was the only one who took an 
, optimistic view of the chances it offered him and ab- 
solutely the only 'one who was quite confident that 
his powers were equal to the highest aims. He was 
not particularly economical or practical in money 
matters gave them little thought, in fact and 
Mette was much the same. If now and again she 
preached economy for the future, especially con- 
sidering their rather numerous flock of children, he 
made a joke of it; their fine, well-grown children 
didn't want many clothes now, and in all their 
nakedness they were worth a fortune to him as a 
painter. When Gauguin talked about the future he 
did so quite calmly, and in speaking of his art he 
showed no sign of fanaticism, so that in a way his 
wife was taken in. The man before her was too sen- 
sible and too well balanced to embark on any adven- 
ture and pursue it to the bitter end. Sooner or later 
he would break loose from the narrow range of ideas 
in which she and others thought it abnormal for a 
man of his mould and talents to be so entirely caught. 
For this reason and because she was a brave woman 




with an unshakable trust that fate would never be 
hard on her and the children, she took no serious 
precautions in view of possible future difficulties. 
Even when in the early summer she discovered that 
she was again to have a child, she had no misgivings. 
She made up her mind that if it was a boy he should 
be called Paul an appeal to her husband's com- 
mon sense. 

It was not until December, after the birth of her 
son Paul, that a shadow of anxiety crossed her mind. 
Her husband told her that they must leave their 
home in the rue Carcel and move to Rouen. For the 
time being, he had no chance in Paris; his friends 
turned their backs on him and the art dealers re- 
gretted that they had no more room for hatching out 
new eggs; the nest was full and the lately hatched 
chickens claimed their attention. It was just as well 
to leave expensive Paris and wait for better times in 
a cheaper place. Besides, the air of Paris did not suit 
him, it was so infected with art and artists' chatter 
about Impressionism, which did not interest him as 
a movement. He wanted to try new lines more in con- 
formity with decorative simplification and far re- 
moved from the Impressionists 5 involved combina- 
tions of effects of light and movement. And at the 
same time he wanted to achieve a style of portraiture 
based more on the naked facts and on entirely primi- 
tive characteristics than on the effect produced by 
the subject in his surroundings. Where and how he 



was to do this he did not know, but at any rate it 
would not be in Paris or by the aid of the excellent 
theories with which Pissarro had inoculated him. 
No doubt they had served him well, but now they 
clung to him like a strange perfume in one's clothes 
which has become insupportable and which one must 
get rid of. Away from Paris, that was the only thing. 
Let oneself be carried along by the river, away from 
the bewildering noise of the city, nearer to the sea, 
with its vast featureless expanse. 

But the stay in Rouen was not of long duration. 
Even though he had attained to greater simplicity 
in his motives and a purer, less complicated colour- 
ing, the atmosphere was much the same. It was 
dominated by his family life, which he had himself 
created, but in other conditions and with other as- 
sumptions. It no longer gave him a basis for his art 
and he was unable to transform it. He was beginning 
to be a stranger to the woman in it. He was disrooted, 
and restlessly searched for a means of escape. And 
Mette noticed it; she pressed the child she was still 
nursing closer to her and called him with plaintive 
tenderness Petit Pola. To her the meaning of life 
was in the children. They entirely dominated her 
emotional life and had always done so to such an 
extent that she had never really tried to penetrate 
to her husband's confidence and therefore had never 
attached any importance to what she felt to be the 
alien element in him. But now she could not avoid 


seeing it. Her practical sense and her active spirit 
were awakened, her maternal feeling was translated 
into material claims; but how were they to be satis- 
fied? The attitude adopted by her circle of friends 
left no doubt in her that Paul's decision was bound 
to land them in misfortune and she felt how unprac- 
tical and difficult he was in the matter of forming 
connections, a thing which to her seemed so easy and 
obvious. But as things had now shaped themselves 
France had become practically impossible 5 better to 
move to Denmark before it was too late. There she 
would feel secure, and if the last remnant of their 
savings should be spent before Paul had returned 
to his senses, she could always turn her hand to some- 

Gauguin himself raised no difficulty; on the con- 
trary, the idea appealed to him. In August 1884, 
eight months after their move to Rouen, the whole 
family with all its possessions embarked for Den- 
mark. Only Gauguin's own pictures and some of the 
most valuable paintings from his collection were left 
behind in France for all eventualities. In order to 
strengthen their finances and to improve his position 
in the eyes of the Gad family he had secured an 
agency for the sale of tarpaulin. 



THE reception given to Gauguin in Denmark was 
not remarkable for cordiality. The courtesy and 
friendliness shown him out of consideration for 
Mette by her family and her old circle of friends 
could not long conceal from him the reservations 
they made in the case of a man who not only appeared 
to them foreign in language and manner, but was 
also somewhat insusceptible to the tone of ordinary 
social intercourse. All the simple habits and amuse- 
ments which help to make daily life smooth and 
agreeable seemed indifferent to him. To them he 
appeared as a man whose serious opinions, whose 
strong personal views and convictions, bore no rea- 
sonable relation to his very uncertain and equivocal 
position in society. Salesman and artist was not ex- 
actly a combination calculated to inspire much re- 
spect in the members of the Gad family. 

These good-looking, ready-witted people were ac- 
customed to deal with all classes easily and in a fitting 


manner. Family feeling and tradition had in a short 
time established themselves among these well-grown 
people, and they aimed at good positions in the serv- 
ice of the State and simple but substantial domestic 

They were inclined to look down on business, and 
their interest in art was entirely determined by the 
degree of appreciation it enjoyed in the eyes of so- 
ciety. They were straightforward people who reck- 
oned with facts 5 backed by these they were ready to 
give a rapid and self-assured judgment about every- 
thing and everybody. 

Facts did not speak in favour of Gauguin, and it 
was not long before the family discovered that he 
preferred to follow his own narrow paths rather 
than the straight., broad road of realities. Or else they 
looked upon him as the master of a boat, which in 
their opinion he was sailing with a faulty compass 
and without an anchor. Entirely irresponsible, he 
trusted too much in himself, without any regard for 
the passengers he had on board. 

And unfortunately Gauguin himself became 
aware that he was in shallow waters and had entered 
a channel that would not take him into the open sea. 
It was with no friendly eye that he regarded the 
simple, smiling scenes of Denmark. Here was little 
space and many fences; and behind the fences were 
neighbours who had to be considered. This was done 
with cool and capable deliberation, and with much 


knowledge of human nature. It gave warmth to the 
home and the soil, to the whole country of Denmark. 

Mette had not lost this strong national sentiment 
during her ten years' sojourn in France, in company 
with a husband in whom this feeling was far from 
unmixed. Gauguin now saw his home becoming more 
and more estranged from him without his being able 
to prevent it. But, being very conscientious, it pained 
him, and he knew that he would never be able en- 
tirely to free himself from this pain. Nor could he 
get rid of the outward appearance of irresponsibility 
and recklessness entailed by acting according to the 
dictates of his real conscience. This lack of under- 
standing made him far more bitter than did the fact 
that no one showed the slightest interest in the work 
in which he was entirely absorbed, and his bitterness 
was specially directed against Denmark, where his 
guilty conscience had begun to take root, and was 
destined to grow more firmly as time went on. 

In surroundings so foreign and unfavourable it 
was quite natural that Gauguin should begin to lose 
his taste for working at his art, and his business 
agency very soon proved to be useless. He had neither 
the address nor the patience required to obtain suc- 
cessful results. The situation in which he found him- 
self was in reality a fateful one. And to make it worse 
his finances threatened disaster, so that Mette had 
to start giving lessons in French in order to contrib- 
ute. Here her former good connections, especially 





with Estrup, were of great service, so that she soon 
made a name as a teacher, particularly among young 
men preparing for the diplomatic service. 

At home Gauguin was forced more and more into 
the background 5 he and his painting materials had to 
be relegated to a little inner room, as the drawing- 
room was required for his wife and her pupils, many 
of whom belonged to the Danish nobility. A small 
skylight was all he had to work by and he had no op- 
portunity of using models. The only model he had 
was himself, so here he sat alone during the long win- 
ter months, painting his own portrait. His powerful, 
animated face has grown rigid in profound reflection, 
his gaze is introspective under the heavy eyelids, and 
his full lips are compressed. Silence reigns in the 
room, only disturbed now and then by distant merri- 
ment Mette and her pupils. Within him a violent 
revolt is stirring, but the hand that holds the brush 
does not tremble j it is calm and sure not yet 
entirely liberated, still somewhat restrained by the 
strict schooling it has gone through. Gauguin knows 
this, but he also knows that the time is not far dis- 
tant when it will be freed. His artistic conscience is 
so clear and strong that everything which stands be- 
tween him and his goal must give way. And the day 
will come when he will be able to put everything on 
its feet again. He has no distrust of others and none at 
all of his own gifts. An indomitable optimist in spite 
of everything, unsuspecting where others are con- 


cerned, a bad judge of human nature, but wise, sen- 
sible, and clear-sighted in his judgment of himself. 
A primitive nature with powerful instincts, but at 
the same time refined and distinguished by conflict- 
ing characteristics inherited from different races. 

<c My political opinions? I have none. But with 
universal suffrage one ought to have some. 

a I am a republican, because I consider that the 
community must live in peace. In France the ma- 
jority is definitely republican. And, for that matter, 
so few people appreciate what is great and noble that 
a democratic government is desirable. 

" Long live democracy! It is the only thing. Phil- 
osophically I believe the Republic to be a deception 
(painter's expression) and I have a horror of decep- 
tions. So I become an anti-republican again (philo- 
sophically considered) . Spontaneously, instinctively, 
without reflection, I love nobility, beauty, refined 
taste, and the old motto: No&lesse oblige. I like good 
manners, politeness, even that of Louis XIV's time. 

" Thus I am, intuitively and without knowing 
why, an aristocrat as an artist. 

<c Art is only for the few. In itself it ought to be 
noble. It is only the big men who have protected art, 
from instinct, from sense of duty, possibly from ar- 
rogance. Never mind why. They have caused great 
and beautiful things to be produced. Kings and popes 
treated an artist on an equal footing so to speak. The 
democrats, bankers, ministers, and art critics give 


themselves the air of protectors, but do not protect; 
they deal with art as if they were buying fish in the 
market. And then you expect an artist to be a re- 

" Here you have my political opinions in a few 
words. I consider that every man has a right to live 
and to live well in the community in proportion to 
his output of work. The artist cannot live. Therefore 
society is criminal and badly organized. Some people 
say: the artist makes useless things, but the workman, 
the manufacturer, in short everyone who provides 
the country with a work which can be paid for, en- 
riches the nation. When he is dead he leaves some- 
thing behind him of value. And I will go further: he 
alone enriches the nation. And this is not the case 
with the broker or the business man. A hundred 
francs circulate in a variety of small coins. The 
broker makes them pass from hand to hand and into 
his own pocket. The nation still has a hundred francs, 
not a centime more." 

It was now becoming increasingly clear to Gau- 
guin that his firm determination to continue his ca- 
reer as an artist would relentlessly force him out of 
the world in which he had hitherto been living and 
out of the home he had made for himself. Although 
fully convinced that this was only a transitional 
phase, he would have to begin again from the begin- 
ning and alone, until the day when he would be 
strong enough to give proof of the justification of his 

-8 7 - 


existence* But there was no question of a breach with 
his family} he would maintain contact with them, 
they were a part of his ego and they had a place in 
all his future prospects. 

His leave-taking with Mette was a calm one. 
They parted without tears or assurances, he to carve 
his way, while she stayed behind in her native land 
to keep together what existed. She agreed with him 
that this was best for them both. And he took Clovis 
with him when in June 1 885 he returned to France. 
He was relieved and emancipated, had got rid of a 
burden of self-reproach which stood in the way of 
his initiative and paralysed his working powers now 
that he had every use for them in order to break with 
his whole artistic past and make a name for himself 
as a painter; but at the same time the magnitude of 
the sacrifice made him bitter and disappointed. His 
self-confidence had received a severe shock. His un- 
compromising uprightness had to choose between 
failing in the duty he felt he owed to his family and 
being false to himself. He had bitter experience that 
the law of bourgeois society knows no pity, but 
judges one's personal accomplishment from the fi- 
nancial point of view, and that on that score he was 
utterly rejected. He had already suspected this in 
France, but in Denmark it was made clear to him in 
a cool and downright fashion, and not least by the 
family of the woman who was dear to him as his wife 
* and the mother of his children. No serious difficulties 


were placed in the way of his project, no conditions 
were imposed; it was he himself who wished to take 
his son with him, and yet it felt like a flight And it 
left a wound in his mind which was hard to heal. 

" I hate Denmark with all my heart, its climate 
and its people. That there is some good in it is in- 
contestable. Whereas for twenty-five years Norway 
and Sweden have flooded French picture-galleries 
with their imitations of anything that smells bad but 
looks pretty, Denmark, ashamed of her reverse at 
the Paris Exhibition of 1878, has been thinking 
things over and collecting herself. This has led to 
the growth of a Danish art which is very personal 
and deserving of the most serious attention, and I am 
happy to be able to praise it in this connection. It 
may be a good thing to study French art and even 
that of other countries, but only in order to gain a 
better insight into oneself. 

" They played a curious practical joke on me in 
Copenhagen. I, who never push myself forward, was 
pressingly invited by a gentleman in the name of an 
art union to exhibit my works in their gallery. And 
I allowed myself to be persuaded. I looked in on the 
opening day and to my indescribable astonishment 
was told that the exhibition had been closed by order 
at noon. Impossible to get any information; every- 
body's mouth was shut. Went on to the influential 
man who had invited me. The footman received me 
with the statement that his master had gone into the* 


country and would not be back for a long time. As 
you see, Denmark is a charming country. 

" It must be admitted all the same that in Den- 
mark a great deal is spent on education and on the 
sciences, especially medicine. The hospital in Copen- 
hagen may be said to be one of the finest buildings of 
its kind, both in size and in its internal arrangement, 
which is first-rate 5 that honour is due to them. All 
the more as apart from this I have only a sad tale to 
relate. And yet I am forgetting that their houses are 
excellently arranged, with a view to both warmth 
and fresh air, and that the town is handsome in sum- 
mer. It must also be said that people always receive 
their guests in the dining-room and that the food is 
excellent. It is always there and that helps you to 
pass the time. So you have to get used to the kind of 
conversation you hear every day: c Coming from a 
great country you must find everything here much 
behind the times. We are so small. What do you think 
of Copenhagen, our museums, etc.? They are not of 
much account. 5 And all this is said to make you say 
just the opposite. And you do so, presumably, out of 
sheer politeness. You don't forget your manners. 

" Talking about the museums. To tell the truth 
there is no collection of paintings, apart from a few 
pictures of the old Danish school, landscapes as elab- 
orate as Meissonier's and some clever pictures of 
small boats. Let us hope things are better today. 
There is a monumental building erected solely for 


their great sculptor Thorvaldsen, a Dane who lived 
and died in Italy, I have seen it, I looked at it till my 
head buzzed. The Greek pantheon has turned Scan- 
dinavian and has then been scrubbed to make it 
Protestant. The Venuses cast down their eyes and 
modestly drape themselves in wet towels. And the 
nymphs dance a jig. Yes ; I assure you, they're danc- 
ing a jig. Just look at their feet. 

" In Europe they talk about the great Thorvald- 
sen, but they haven't seen him. His famous lion is the 
only thing of his that can be seen by tourists in Swit- 
zerland! A stuffed Danish dog. If I were to say this 
in Denmark I know I should be banned irreclaimably 
for daring to insult the greatest Danish sculptor. 
There are many other things that make me hate Den- 
mark, but they are private reasons which one ought 
to keep to oneself. 

" But now let me introduce you to a home such as 
one seldom sees nowadays, the home of a count be- 
longing to the most distinguished Danish nobility. 
The salon is square, hung with two huge pieces of 
German tapestry, as wonderful as you could wish to 
see. They were specially executed for this family. 
Over two of the doors are views of Venice, by Tur- 
ner 5 the chairs are carved with the family coat of 
arms, the tables inlaid, the hangings are in keeping. 
Wonderful art everywhere. 

" You are announced and received j you take your 
seat on a pouf covered with red plush and shaped like 


a snail's shell, and on a handsome table you see a tea- 
cloth that cost a few francs at the Bon Marche, a 
photograph album and flower vases in the same style. 
Vandals! ! 

" Leading out of the drawing-room is a very hand- 
some gallery. It contains the collection of pictures. 
Portrait of Rembrandt's mother and so on. There is 
a musty smell; nobody ever comes here. The family 
prefers the chapel, where they read the Bible and 
where everything oppresses you like a stone weigh- 
ing on your heart. 

" I must admit that the system of getting engaged 
in Denmark is good, because it doesn't bind either of 
the parties (you change your fiancee as you change 
your shirt), and yet the whole thing has a semblance 
of love, liberty, and morality. If you're engaged you 
can go about together as much as you like, you can 
even travel together; the cloak of betrothal covers 
all. You play with everything, except the one thing; 
this teaches both parties not to forget themselves and 
do anything silly. With each of her engagements the 
bird loses a lot of little feathers, but they grow again 
without anybody noticing it. Very practical, these 
Danes. Take a sip of it, but don't lose your head. 
If you do, you may easily regret it, for remember, 
the Danish woman is extraordinarily practical. Bear 
in mind that it's a small country where you have to be 
careful. Even as children they are taught to say: 


c Papa, we must have some money 5 you'll have to 
turn out your pockets, poor papa. 5 

" I hate the Danes. . . . 

" These people have the most extraordinary ideas 
of modesty. Thus every owner of a villa on the shore 
of the Sound has his little hut for dressing and un- 
dressing, and the main road runs between the villas 
and the bathing-huts. 

" Men and women bathe separately and at differ- 
ent hours. They bathe naked, and the rule is that peo- 
ple going along the road don't see anything. I confess 
that, being of a curious turn, I sinned against this 
rule one day as the wife of a minister was calmly 
wading out into the water. I will also confess that 
her white body, exposed down to the calves, was ex- 
tremely effective. Her little girl followed her, and 
she turned round and discovered me. c Mamma! ' 
Mamma turned, got a fright, and made for the hut 
again. And now, after having shown me her back, 
she gave me a view of her front. Once more I must 
confess that at that distance the effect was pretty 
good. There was a scandal. Fancy! he stopped and 
looked at us! " 

THE countenance which Paris presented to Gauguin 
on his return was grey and expressionless. And he 
was not one of those who seek to evoke either smiles 
or tears. To look for help and consolation was not his 



way. Least of all now that he was facing the turning- 
point in his life, when he had to concentrate en- 
tirely on himself and liberate himself from all influ- 
ences, could he be subject to any bonds of gratitude 
or indebtedness. The only one he really wanted to 
see was Schuffenecker, who at once received him 
with effusive cordiality, inspired by obvious admira- 
tion which, together with his wife's warm and honest 
friendliness, did Gauguin good. But neither Schuffe- 
necker's own paintings nor his glowing enthusiasm 
for Impressionism had anything to say to him. And 
he told his friend straight out that Impressionism was 
far too restricted. The great importance it attached 
to the problem of light and to the direct impression 
left little room for expressing the primitive and plas- 
tic beauty of the human body, or the monumental 
quality and the rhythmical decorative force in na- 
ture. Impressionism was only fit for interiors ; it had 
only the eye as its medium, whereas thought and 
feeling also had claims to express themselves in pic- 
torial form. Both colour and plasticity are capable of 
expressing the many moods of the mind when ideas 
force themselves upon us. " You want Symbolism," 
suggested Schuffenecker. " No, what I want is that 
human beings and nature, primitive and unadorned, 
shall unite to give an image of the harmony and 
beauty by which every civilized society tries to ex- 
press its vital instinct. Symbolism is only a covert 
expression of inhibited vitality. There is something 



DIEPPE, 1885 


empty about symbols the word always reminds me 
of cymbals. Both the Symbolists and the Impression- 
ists are trying to find their artistic form through in- 
genuity. I am going to try to find my form in the 
simplest and to me most natural way. I know I have 
a right to do this, but let me have walls. Pm not go- 
ing to be modest, because I don't want to be an ass. 
As yet I haven't got there ; but be sure that will come 
and then I shall be understood. Christianity and civi- 
lization together have tried to abolish man's belief in 
himself and in the beauty of the primitive instincts, 
so that this has become a myth, but as such it is alive 
in every human being. I want to restore the myth to 

To Schuff enecker, who belonged to a set with very 
different and restricted views about " Art for Art's 
sake," all that Gauguin said was fairly problemati- 
cal} he admired him and believed in him, but for his 
own part he saw no prospect for an artistic tendency 
like Gauguin's. And he knew and understood enough 
to tell him that it would not find a fertile soil among 
those artists who influenced the new movement in 
art, which was just beginning to make headway with 
certain critics and art dealers and through them 
might reach the buying public. 

And unfortunately it was very soon apparent that 
Gauguin's strong conviction would not suffice to 
carry him to his goal in the circumstances he had 
created for himself. Winter was coming on, and he 



was obliged to move from one place to another with 
his little six-year-old son, before he found a modest 
apartment in the rue Gail. His whole baggage was 
one trunk with such clothes as were barely necessary 
for himself and the boy* He slept on a mattress on 
the floor^ wrapt in a travelling plaid ; for the child 
he had hired a bed. 

He had no good news to send to his family in Den- 
mark; nor were the letters he received from there 
very encouraging. As yet Mette had not quite settled 
down to her position as the support of a family and 
she was full of anxiety. Both were accustomed to re- 
veal their thoughts and feelings to each other, but 
at this distance it was not easy for one to judge fairly 
of the other's position. 

Bitterness often gained the upper hand in his let- 
ters, prompted by the hard realities he forced a little 
six-year-old to share with him. 

" I have received your letter which gives such a 
mournful description of your situation; I have done 
my best to see things from your point of view and I 
confess they do not seem so bad to me. You are living 
in your house , decently furnished, surrounded by 
your children, working at a strenuous job, but one 
which you like; you meet people and as you are fond 
of the society of women and of your compatriots, you 
have some opportunities of indulging this taste. You 
enjoy the advantages of marriage without being 
~ 9 6- 


troubled with a husband. What more do you want, 
except a little more money? Many others are in a 
like case. 

a Whereas I am driven from my home, and how 
am I living! between four walls, a bed, a table, 
no fire, no company. Clovis is heroic 5 when we sit 
together of an evening at our table before a bit of 
bread and a slice of ham, he never thinks of the dain- 
ties he used to be given. He says nothing, asks for 
nothing, not even leave to play, and then he goes to 
bed. That is his life day by day; his heart and his 
brains are now those of a grown-up person. He is 
growing fast, but is not very well. . . ." 

But a correspondence of this sort is dangerous. So 
much is read between the lines. Perhaps the words 
were meant, but they are quickly forgotten. The in- 
tervals between the letters are long. 

a You are quite wrong to think I have been angry* 
I have grown a very thick skin and have nothing left 
but disgust with all that has happened. That the 
children are forgetting me has now become a matter 
of indifference. Besides, I don't see any possibility 
of ever seeing them again, and God grant that death 
may take us all. That would be the best present he 
could make us. ... 

" Don't worry about my forgiveness for your 
faults; I have forgotten all that long ago; even your 
sister, who was the wickedest and stupidest in the 



whole business, is now to me a woman like any other. 
I have always made the mistake of believing in vir- 
tue. All is forgotten." 

Gauguin was in a bad way j he was working hard, 
but it was a strain on him. His conscience stood be- 
tween him and his life's aim 5 it spoke severely and 
was always beside him in the person of the gentle, 
patient, fair-haired boy with the innocent blue eyes 
which saw and understood that his father was suf- 

And one day Clovis was taken ill with smallpox. 
Limp and burning with fever the strong, brave boy 
lay dozing in his bed. A rapid decision was called for: 
should he lay down his arms, surrender? His con- 
science spoke with two voices. He could not do it; 
better to take any job he could get. 

cc My dear Mette, 

" Necessity knows no law 5 sometimes too it makes 
a man overstep the bounds imposed on him by so- 
ciety. When the little one was attacked by smallpox 
I had 20 centimes in my pocket and for three days 
we had been living on credit dry bread. In my 
despair I had the idea of offering myself as a bill- 
poster to an advertising company. My respectable 
appearance made the Director laugh, but I told him 
very seriously that I had a sick child and that I 
wanted work. So I have been posting bills for 5 francs 
a day; during this time Clovis was confined to his 


bed by the fever, and in the evening I returned to 
nurse him. This has been going on for three weeks, 
and today the Director of the company has taken me 
on as superintendent and secretary at 200 francs a 
month. It seems they have found me intelligent and 
I believe that in a year's time I shall have a better 
situation. They are negotiating at this moment with 
Spain about establishing an agency at Madrid, where 
I am to be appointed manager with a salary of 300 
francs a month, free lodging and 20 per cent on the 
returns. Besides, the company is a rich one, has for 
30 years been carrying on a business which is likely 
to be extended. So that is a future which may have 
better things in store for me. The present is still a 
hard time, but there is encouragement in it and it is 
a great deal better than the past. 

" Your Danish self-esteem will be hurt at having 
a bill-poster husband. But what do you ask for? 
everybody can't have talent. Don't worry about the 
little one, he is getting better and better and I have 
no idea of sending him back to you; on the contrary, 
I count on taking others of the children as my poster 
business grows. I have a right to do so, as you know. 

cc You ask me to answer in the same gentle tone in 
which you write, so I have gone through very calmly 
all the letters in which you tell me very cool-headedly 
and, be it said, with much common sense that I loved 
you once but that now you are no more than Mother 
and not wife, etc. These memories are very pleasant 



to me, but they have one very great disadvantage . 
they leave me with no illusions for the future. It 
ought not to astonish you therefore if one day, when 
my circumstances have improved, I find a woman 
who may be to me something besides a mother, 

a I know very well that you look on me as devoid 
of all charm, but that just pricks me on to prove the 
contrary. Perhaps in Spain that will be easier. Mean- 
while go on as you are doing, holding your head high 
before the world, inspired by your duties, with a 
clear conscience. For that matter, there is only one 
crime, adultery. With that exception everything is 
right and proper. It is not just that you should be 
driven out of your house, but it is reasonable that I 
should be driven out of mine. So you won't think it 
mean^if I make another home for myself. And in it 
I shall be able to post bills. Everyone has his own 
way of blushing. 

cc Remember me kindly to your family. 

" Your husband , 

" Paul " 

Gauguin could not take his actual position alto- 
gether seriously. With scathing irony he insists on 
the absurdity of earning his living by taking on a job 
far inferior to what he would have been entitled to 
if only he had been willing to sacrifice the idea which 
alone could release the tension in his mind and bring 




into play the powers he really possessed. So far down 
did he have to go in order to prove to himself and 
others how insignificant were the financial demands 
of the moment compared with his real aims. Al- 
though what he had produced in the last four years 
did not satisfy him, he sent in nineteen pictures and 
a piece of wood-carving to the Salon des Indepen- 
dants in 1 8 8 6, to show that his determination to con- 
tinue as an artist was unchanged ; but he was quite 
prepared for a cool reception. He was himself well 
aware that he was still under the sway of too many 
influences, as well as fortuitous circumstances, which 
had set their mark on his art. All this he would have 
to shake off. He must get away from Paris, that cold 
place for a poor man of many wants, away from 
the crushing responsibility which weighed upon him 
continually, so that he could concentrate and work 
in peace. When Clovis was quite recovered he placed 
him in a pension outside Paris, where he left him for 
a time. He took his departure, but not as a bill-poster, 
nor yet to Spain. It was as a painter with no financial 
prospects that he left for Pont-Aven in Brittany, in 
the hope that the simplicity of the scenery and the 
primitive nature of the people would answer the in- 
tentions of his art. 

And he was not altogether mistaken. In many 
ways Brittany answered his expectations, but with 
his inquiring mind and his thoroughness it took him 
time to get to work and to exploit to the full that 



simplification in his painting which he aimed at in 
agreement with his feeling for nature. 

" To tell the truth, I haven't the facility of com- 
prehension that others find without effort at the tips 
of their brushes. They get out of the train, take up 
their palette, and in a second they've got a sunlight 
effect. When it is dry it goes to the Luxembourg and 
is signed Carolus Durand. I don't admire the paint- 
ing, but I do the man. He is so sure and calm, and I 
am so uncertain and anxious. At every fresh place I 
come to I must have time to get acclimatized, to get 
to know the nature of the trees, the plants, the scenery 
in short, which is so varied and capricious and is 
never willing to yield itself up to you," 

Even if the work itself went rather slowly, the 
idea was taking shape with growing conviction in 
Gauguin's mind. At the same time he was becom- 
ing more restful, his financial difficulties no longer 
wounded his pride so severely or preyed on his self- 
confidence. The calm and simple life he was leading 
made him forget his bitterness. All the unfriendli- 
ness and indifference he had met with in Paris was 
swept away by the Bretons' hospitality and interested 
kindliness. He began to see himself and his art in a 
bolder light, more strongly armed against the ar- 
bitrary blows of existence. His fighting spirit was 

" The other day I had news of Clovis ; it seems 
that they are getting very fond of him at the pension 


and that he is as right as a trivet. I miss him very 
much and if I had had the money I should have 
brought him here. Poor little chap, he won't have 
any holidays, but in this world one can only do what 
one can. . . . 

a Strange how well I feel in the midst of all these 
worries 5 I have never worked so hard. When my fall 
comes it will probably come with a crash. . . ." 

And with the improvement in his spirits he began 
to make plans. His energy and new-born optimism 
once more made him restless and impatient to strike 
a blow for his financial existence, which could only 
be done in Paris. And late in the autumn he returned 
thither. He succeeded in selling a small picture from 
his collection} earlier attempts had been fruitless, as 
he would never submit to be cheated by the art deal- 
ers and let things go at any price. He starved rather 
than sell at a ridiculous price his own pictures or 
those he had of other painters, and therefore was 
left with the greater part of his collection on his 
hands. But everyone knew he was in difficulties, so 
he could neither borrow money nor sell his things 

This time, however, he did manage to sell a little 
picture by the Dutch painter Jongkind for three 
hundred and fifty francs. He brought his boy home 
from the pension and began to work at pottery, in 
order if possible to earn a little in this way. But after 
a couple of months he was just where he started. 



Clovis was sent back to the pension, he himself was 
without a sou, only the richer by a few paintings and 
some pottery of his own making. That winter Gau- 
guin met for the first time an artist who not only was 
his comrade in misfortune,, but whom he felt to be 
achieving really great artistic aims. But whereas he 
himself made great demands on existence, Vincent 
van Gogh accepted his fate with the patience of an 
angel. And van Gogh had a great attraction for 
Gauguin both as a man and as a painter. 

" The Pink Shrimps. 

Winter of >86. 

a The snow has begun to fall. You can keep that 
about the shroud; it is just snow. Poor people are in 
a bad way. Those who have something are apt to for- 
get that. Along the rue Lepic in our beloved city of 
Paris the pedestrians are hurrying faster than usual 
on this December day. No temptation to loiter. 
Among them a poor shivering fellow in a strange 
get-up is hurrying towards the outer boulevards. He 
is wrapped in a goatskin coat; wears a fur cap, prob- 
ably rabbit; has a bristly red beard. Some sort of a 
drover. But don't be in too much of a hurry; cold as 
it is, take a second look at that white and well-shaped 
hand, those clear and childlike blue eyes. A poor 
devil, sure enough. His name is Vincent van Gogh. 
He slips into a shop full of Negro weapons, old iron, 


and cheap oil paintings. Poor artist! You have put 
your soul into this picture you are going to sell a 
little still-life. Pink shrimps on a piece of pink paper. 

" c I suppose you couldn't give me something for 
this picture to help with the rent? y 

" c The deuce! My friend, customers are getting 
difficult 5 they come here wanting to buy cheap Mil- 
lets. And then, you must know, your paintings are 
not particularly cheerful. The Renaissance is what 
goes on the boulevards. But they say you have talent, 
so I'll do something for you. Here you are, five 

" The round coin rang on the counter and van 
Gogh took it without a murmur, thanked the man, 
and went out. Wearily he made his way along the 
rue Lepic. As he approached his lodging a poor 
woman just let out of St. Lazare smiled at the 
painter. She thought he might be a customer. 

" The fine white hand was withdrawn from the 
top-coat. Van Gogh was fond of reading he pic- 
tured to himself some c fille Elisa/ and the five francs 
became the property of the unfortunate. Quickly, as 
though ashamed of his charity, he fled with an empty 


" A day will come, and I see it as though it were 
today. We enter room No. 9 at the auctioneer's, 
where a collection of paintings is being sold. c 400 



francs for The Pink Shrimps 450 500. Now, 
gentlemen, it's worth more than that! ' Nobody bids 
more. Gone The Pink Shrimps by van Gogh." 

And Gauguin was not mistaken. He saw that the 
kind blue eyes which followed him attentively as he 
expounded his artistic ideas were bright with intelli- 
gence, faith, and temperament. Different as were 
their characters, they had an irresistible attraction for 
one another. As artists both were strong 5 one by vir- 
tue of his conviction, the other in his faith that the 
cause they supported would win through some day. 
Van Gogh was five years younger than Gauguin and, 
like the latter, had not taken up painting until he 
was thirty. He had only been painting for four years 
or so when he met Gauguin and was thus himself in 
the experimental stage, though he began from an 
entirely different angle. While the Dutchman van 
Gogh sought his inspiration in French art and to 
some extent in impressionism, which he interpreted 
in his own way according to a simple and in many 
ways natural and primitive train of thought, Gau- 
guin was trying to free himself from all this and was 
led by an instinct towards the primitive. Van Gogh 
was an ardent and impulsive fanatic 5 Gauguin was 
cool and clear-headed in his fanaticism. Van Gogh 
was extremely receptive} Gauguin more disposed to 
reflection. But these two very different characters 
were united by a common feeling of being isolated 


from the artistic movement of the day, since they 
both pursued an aim which in many ways differed 
entirely from the view of art which now at last was 
on the point of achieving success after a struggle of 
nearly twenty years. And they not merely differed, 
they opposed this view, and in reality Gauguin came 
to feel more of a stranger in his native city than the 
Dutchman van Gogh, who in the course of a year 
had taught himself to speak French perfectly. While 
this isolation meant little to the unassuming van 
Gogh, to Gauguin it was a tragedy which wore down 
his health and made Paris more and more of a hell 
for him. And yet Paris held all his expectations j it 
was his city, the place where he was one day to oc- 
cupy the position to which he was entitled as artist 
and man. This made it bitter to feel that Paris had 
turned its back on him. No doubt he could count 
Schuffenecker and a few of his set as his admirers, 
but of all those he met, van Gogh was the only one 
for whom he himself could show any admiration and 
who was able really to encourage his artistic efforts. 

For these reasons he determined to go far away 
and seek a simpler existence in primitive conditions. 
And he chose Martinique in the hope of finding what 
he wanted. 

" Next month I am leaving for America by the 
mail-boat of April loth. I can't continue this shat- 
tering and enfeebling existence any longer and I am 
going to try all I can to have a clear conscience. . . . 



cc Why do you leave me so long without a letter? 
It seems to me I have a right to hear from you from 
time to time. My letters are not very gay., but what 
can you expect? I have so much to go through that 
it is almost beyond human endurance. Before leaving 
for the unknown I should be very glad to have your 
news, as I am not able to kiss you good-bye." 

And it wounded his pride deeply to have to hand 
over Clovis to the care of Mette; he scarcely alluded 
to it, and only in vague terms. His affairs were 
in such a mess that it was impossible to get them 
straightened out. 

cc I was expecting your letter impatiently, as I 
leave Saint-Nazaire on April lothj you see I have 
no time to lose. 

" You seem to have misunderstood my letter about 
Clovis 5 you must find someone 'who will take charge 
of him on the journey, I am leaving with just enough 
for the voyage and I shall arrive in America penni- 
less. What do I expect to do there? I don't yet know 
myself. You understand that without the sinews of 
war it is pretty difficult} but what I want above all 
is to escape from Paris, which is a wilderness for a 
poor man. My name as an artist is growing day by 
day, but in the meanwhile I sometimes go three days 
without a meal, which is destructive not only of my 
health but of my energy. The latter I aim to restore, 
and I am going to Panama to live like a savage. I 
know of a little island (Taboga) about three miles 



off the coast of Panama, in the Pacific. It is almost 
uninhabited, free and very fertile, I am taking my 
colours and brushes and I am going to recruit in soli- 
tude. The air of the place is very healthful, and as 
for food, one can get fish and fruit for a mere trifle." 
. Gauguin did not go alone to Martinique. A young 
painter named Charles Laval accompanied him as 
an enthusiastic adherent of his idea of the simple 
.decorative structure of painting. The life Gauguin 
had led for the last few years had made great inroads 
on his powerful constitution. Having never been 
used to frugality, his mode of living in straitened 
circumstances became extremely irregular. One day 
he would be starving, and another, if he got a little 
money, he would have a violent craving to enjoy the 
good things he had been forced to deny himself; and 
in his depressed condition he often went farther than 
was good for his health. In tobacco and alcohol, es- 
pecially brandy, he very often found dangerous allies 
in deadening the gloom that stole over him in the 
hours of darkness. He had every reason to rely on his 
iron constitution, but this confidence was often some- 
what exaggerated, so that when at last he fell ill he 
was apt to treat it lightly. 

Both he and Laval, who was a naturally delicate 
man, were very soon affected by the tropical climate, 
and Gauguin, as the stronger, had in the first place 
to attend to his sick friend, until he was able to get 
him sent back to France as a doomed man. And both 


the scenery and the people disappointed Gauguin; 
civilization had set its mark on them. The primitive 
nakedness he had expected to find had lost its natural 
charm; European civilization had dressed up the 
natives in clothes that made them appear frivolous. 
But the pictures he was able to paint in Martinique 
did satisfy to some extent his longing to encounter 
the simple and primitive. He was strongly impelled 
to pursue his aim and his basic idea was made clearer 
and simpler. If he had not yet got a grip of the lead- 
ing motive, he had felt the underlying idea and the 
rhythm that was to accompany and support it. This 
had given him fresh courage and fresh impulses, and 
thereby his self-confidence was further invigorated 
to resume the struggle for his idea of depicting life 
in its nakedness, stripped of the atmosphere with 
which the age surrounds it. With his strong sexual 
instinct it was the primeval force in life itself that he 
was in quest of. But the climate and tropical disease 
broke down his health, and he could establish no in- 
timacy with the inhabitants of the island. Solitude 
oppressed him. 

He seized the first opportunity of returning to 
France as a seaman aboard a sailing-ship. He was ill, 
but his vision of the work he meant to produce was 
clearer than before. He had painted a score of pic- 
tures and wanted to show them to somebody. If they 
did not understand it all, they must at any rate grasp 



something. He was in need of friendly care and some- 
one to talk to, and moreover he had not a penny in 
his pocket when after a long and exhausting voyage 
he reached Paris. There was only one place he could 
go to Schuffenecker's. 

Now that he was back in his native city, he could 
not help reflecting how strangely his life had turned 
out. Fifteen years before, he had arrived here poor 
and homeless, after having spent five years without 
any clear consciousness of what was his aim in life. 
A home was no reality, only an airy structure of 
memories and moods and a far-away romance in 
which his handsome and affectionate mother was the 
one he understood best, though she was mysterious 
as a woman. In the course of ten years he had made 
himself a home which was a reality. A good, well- 
managed house, with a woman he knew and loved, 
children he was proud and fond of, and a position he 
had made for himself without difficulty or struggle. 
He was respected and could afford to indulge his 
taste for art as an interested spectator, since he was 
making plenty of money without having to sell any- 
thing. And now he was back where he was fifteen 
years before, homeless and in need, after five years 
of vigorous development with a real aim before him 
and a full consciousness of its value for the future. 
And home was a reality, good and comfortable, but 
so far out of reach today. He was actually homeless 



and more lonely than before, since he was no longer 
willing to be the Gauguin to whom doors were 
readily opened. 

The only people he would go to now were Schuff e- 
necker and his wife. With them he had been at home 
in a way before he had a home of his own. He had 
come to understand that their friendship was more 
deeply rooted than their respect for him as a pros- 
perous citizen. He knew in his own mind that the 
misfortunes and bitter experiences of the last few 
years had not made him gentler or easier to get on 
with., that the gall had got into his blood to some 
extent. He was ill and wanted nursing, and suspected 
that some forbearance might be required, a thing for 
which he was not in the habit of asking. 

Schuffenecker was now living in a little house 
with a studio, surrounded by a little garden, in the 
rue Boulard. Small as the place was, these excellent 
people found room for their friend, at whose disposal 
the studio was placed. The very next day Gauguin 
filled it with his pictures, putting a fresh canvas on 
his easel, and his host was delighted and full of ad- 
miration for his recent works from Martinique. 

Schuffenecker himself was of no great account as 
an artist and therefore went very cautiously to work 
in the execution of his own pictures, but at the same 
time he attached importance to anything that might 
appear new and original. For this reason, like the 



small circle of younger painters who were starting 
the Post-Impressionist school, he was ardently en- 
thusiastic over Pissarro's ideas of the division of 
colour into the primitive colours of the spectrum car- 
ried out with oblique strokes of the brush, but with- 
out understanding their consequences or considering 
their importance. Apart from Seurat and Signac, 
whose personal views of the system led them to take 
a line of their own and to carry out their individual 
scheme, the rest of the Post-Impressionists were 
ready to snatch at any synthesis if only it appeared 
original and rebellious. And Schuff enecker followed 
it up, groping his way, and held forth about it with 
an eloquence and a generosity which carried many 
along with him who were less cautious without being 
much more richly endowed than he. With all his en- 
thusiasm for art he was a modest painter who was 
aware of his own limitations. And perhaps his mod- 
esty prevented his seeing the limitations of others. 
Gauguin, who himself had a very good eye for other 
men's work and was a very good judge of it, relying 
more on the characteristics each personality put into 
his painting than on the external artistic form, did 
not view any syntheses with favour, least of all those 
that had to do with Symbolism. But Schuffenecker 
looked upon Gauguin as a genius, and his recent pic- 
tures entirely convinced him of it. The acts of a 
genius were not to be reconciled with common sense, 



and of no one was this more true than of Gauguin 5 
at any rate his actions were not normal, but they had 
their own profound significance., which found ex- 
pression in his pictures and was not to be compre- 
hended by ordinary mortals except in periphrasis. 

To him Gauguin became something like a sacred 
animal that he had to exhibit, whose art he had to 
explain and translate. He would get quite excited, 
forget himself^ interrupt and contradict his genius, 
when the latter coolly, laconically, and without ex- 
aggeration either of persuasiveness or affability ex- 
plained his painting to all the artists and connoisseurs 
Schuffenecker brought to his studio. Occasionally he 
forgot Gauguin altogether, when the latter, feeling 
tired, had withdrawn into a corner behind the easel 
to mope over a brandy with a cigarette in his mouth. 

And one day when Schuffenecker came with Theo 
van Gogh in tow brother of Vincent and em- 
ployed by Goupil, the art dealer Gauguin forgot 
his host, shut the door of his own studio in his face, 
and turned the key. Not till next day, after many en- 
treaties and assurances, in which the wife and the 
two daughters took part, was the door opened again. 

For the kind-hearted Schuffenecker, who had 
only acted rather precipitately from pure unselfish- 
ness, there was no difficulty in offering apologies. To 
Gauguin that was impossible. Pardoning others may 
be an easy matter, pardoning oneself is more difficult. 
All he could do was to assure them that his friendly 


feelings were unaltered. But he had to move, in order 
to compose himself and settle down to his art. 

While still staying with his friends in the rue 
Boulard, Gauguin had taken up ceramics. This en- 
abled him to combine form and colour in a natural 
way, and at the Musee Guimet he found models in 
primitive pottery which at the same time satisfied 
his craving for simplicity. Most of his productions 
he signed with a simple " P. Go." in place of the 
elaborate and ornamental cc Paul Gauguin " with 
which he had previously furnished his pictures. But 
this work kept him in Paris, though he was again 
longing to get away. He rented a little studio with 
money Theo van Gogh had furnished as an advance 
on pictures he had deposited with the dealer after a 
little exhibition. Once more hope was dawning and 
with it the longing to find the motive which might 
restore his full energy and enable him to overcome 
the malady, both mental and physical, which con- 
stantly tormented him. And now his thoughts turned 
again to the bold and simple scenery of Brittany and 
its people, who seem carved out of the very land- 
scape. A letter from Vincent van Gogh describing 
Aries and the Arlesiennes in simple and picturesque 
terms made him hesitate for a moment, since he was 
also strongly attracted by this man in whom the yet 
unimpaired beauty of the primitive was united with 
a receptive and at the same time brilliant and inde- 
pendent spirit. But he decided on Brittany, not feel- 


ing strong enough as yet for a calm encounter with 
the magnetism of van Gogh's strong and decided 

When the mild weather had definitely set in after 
the hard winter, he moved to Pont-Aven in order to 
prepare himself for a new spell of work as soon as 
the frost was thawed out of his spirit and spring 
had asserted itself in the storm-swept landscape of 

cc Dear Mette y 

" I have just received the underclothes you sent 
me; thanks, they fit very well and I was badly in 
want of them. Since I came here I have been in bed 
nearly all the time: I had to resort to a blister on the 
liver. I can't manage to get rid of all the bile that 
accumulates there. 

cc You tell me in your letter that you find it very 
difficult to write in the state of mind which you are 
in. I can understand its being painful to write me 
your gossip; do something simpler. Send me, every 
three weeks or so, just a word: The children and I 
are <welL 

" They have discovered a new remedy for head- 
ache: antipyrin; I assure you it is an excellent cure 
and you ought to use it. You complain of being alone 
and you tell me to remember you. I don't quite un- 
derstand; you have your children about you, your 
compatriots, your sisters and your brothers, your 



BRITTANY, I 8 8 8 


home. What am I to say of myself, alone in the bed- 
room of an inn, absolute silence from morning to 
night? Nobody with whom I could exchange an 
idea. Assuming that we were in a position to live as 
in old days, you would complain at the end of a week 
but we haven't got so far. I believe I shall be able 
to help you liberally in a year's time and I shall do 
so as soon as I can. But as to sharing a home again, 
I don't see any possibility of that for seven or eight 
years. Let us hope that I shall then find a compensa- 
tion for my domestic worries in the pleasure my chil- 
dren will give me. Being old, both of us, <we shall 
perhaps be able to understand each other better. 
Cheer up and let us wait. 
a Kiss the children for me. 

a Paul Gauguin " 

In Brittany Gauguin lodged with Madame Gloa- 
nec, who kept a boarding-house much frequented 
by artists. But these were for the most part men who 
were treading the old paths in their art the thing 
that he feared and despised above all. At first there- 
fore he simply worked without seeking the society of 
the others, until one day a few of Schuffenecker's 
young friends arrived, among them Serusier and 
Emile Bernard, who aimed at following Gauguin on 
his new and yet unblazed trail. And he was glad to 
encourage them, because they gave him a stimulus 
to intensive work in order to elucidate in his painting 



the ideas he propounded to them. He was fully 
aware, however, that any impulses he gave them 
would quickly crumble away when they were left to 
themselves. Their admiration warmed him slightly, 
but he received little of the kind of encouragement 
he most needed, that which consisted in a personal 
comprehension of the true values in his own art. 
What he wanted was an independent spirit whose 
work was based on the same motives as his own, thus 
enabling him to measure his own strength. He was 
still haunted by the thought of his association with 
Vincent van Gogh; so he wrote to him and urged 
him to come to Pont-Aven. But van Gogh was too 
much attached to his beloved sunny Aries and asked 
Gauguin again to come there. He saw that Gauguin 
had need of him and had a feeling that he himself 
would benefit by the other's presence. He not only 
wrote to Gauguin, but also applied to his brother to 
help him: 

" I write in all haste to tell you I have had a letter 
from Gauguin saying that he has not written to me 
before as he has been working hard. He says he is 
still ready to come south as soon as he has a chance. 

" In the hope of sharing a studio with Gauguin I 
am going to decorate it. Nothing but sunflowers. The 
whole thing is to be a symphony in blue and yellow." 

And van Gogh became more and more assiduous 
in his solicitude for his friend: 

" I have had another letter from Gauguin. He 


says he still has stomach trouble and he sounds de- 
pressed. He talks of being able to get hold of a capital 
of six hundred thousand francs to start an art dealer's 
business for the Impressionists. He wants to explain 
his scheme and says you are to be at the head of the 
affair. I shouldn't be surprised if this hope of his was 
a fata morgana, a mirage brought on by poverty. 
The deeper one sinks in poverty, especially if one is 
ill, the more one thinks of such possibilities. So this 
plan looks to me like a sign that he is getting frozen 
in and the best thing we can do is to get him moved 
as quickly as possible. 

" I wonder whether he isn't quite ready to come 
here, only hotel and travelling expenses have been 
complicated by a doctor's bill. In other words, he 
finds it difficult. I think he ought to let his debts look 
after themselves and pawn his pictures. I had to do 
the same to get to Paris. Gauguin shall get enough 
to eat, he can take walks with me in this beautiful 
country, see what the house is like and how we can 
arrange it, and amuse himself as much as he likes. He 
has been living on short commons and it has made 
him ill, so that he can't tell a sad note from a merry 
one. It is high time he came and he will soon get 
well here. Meanwhile forgive me if I exceed my 
budget; I will work all the harder." 

Van Gogh was full of impulsive geniality and high 
spirits, beaming with delight over trifles a studio, 
a little house, and the prospect of having his friend to 


look after made him happy and kept him busy. A 
little irregularity and a difficulty about the rent never 
made any impression on him. How different from 
Gauguin, the optimist, who was always immersed 
in great plans, who could not be kind without being 
generous, could never stop at small sums, but must 
always open his purse-strings wide silent and 
thorough when he had an account to settle! 

Gauguin allowed himself to be persuaded and 
went to Aries in August. At their first meeting the 
two men had stimulated each other by an exchange 
of artistic points of view, and this had encouraged 
them both to work with renewed vigour. Now they 
were to meet at a moment when both were in full 
and rapid development; they were to work together, 
to be each other's whetstone, strong and independent 
personalities both of them, and so different. A dan- 
gerous experiment. And Gauguin had an instinctive 
presentiment of this. But he had set his heart on it 
and overcame his scruples. 

" I arrived at Aries towards morning and waited 
for dawn in a little night cafe. The proprietor looked 
at me and exclaimed: c You're the chum, I recognize 
you.' A portrait of myself that I had sent to Vincent 
is enough to explain this exclamation. Vincent had 
shown him the portrait, telling him it was a chum 
who was coming shortly. 

" Not too early nor too late, I went and turned 
Vincent out. The day was taken up with settling me 



in my new quarters, with a lot of chatting and a 
walk, to give me a chance of sharing his admiration 
for the beauty of Aries and of the Arlesiennes, about 
whom, in parenthesis, I wasn't able to show much 
enthusiasm. Next day we were hard at work. . . . 

" It took me a few weeks to reconcile myself en- 
tirely to the sharp taste of Aries and its neighbour- 
hood. But that did not prevent our working hard 5 
especially Vincent. Between our two natures, the one 
a regular volcano, the other boiling too, it looked as 
if a sort of struggle was in preparation. 

cc In the first place I found an untidiness every- 
where which offended my eye. His colour-box was 
hardly big enough for all his squeezed tubes and it 
was never closed; but in spite of all this disorder, all 
this mess, his canvas shone with a glorious unity. 
There was the same confusion in his talk. Daudet, 
de Goncourt, and the Bible were afire in this Dutch 
brain. At Aries everything the quays, the bridges, 
the boats, the whole Midi had taken the place of 
Holland in his mind. He even forgot how to write 
Dutch and, as will be seen from his letters to his 
brother, he wrote an admirable French. In spite of 
all my efforts to deduce a logical reasoning in his 
critical opinions from this mental confusion, I could 
not find an explanation of all the contradictions be- 
tween his painting and his views. Thus he had an 
unbounded admiration for Meissonier and a pro- 
found hatred of Ingres. Degas reduced him to de- 



spair and Cezanne was only a bluffer. The thought 
of Monticelli made him weep. 

" One thing that annoyed him was having to ad- 
mit that I possessed a good deal of intelligence., while 
my forehead was low., a sign of fatuity. And with 
all this there went an immeasurable tenderness, or 
rather an altruism worthy of an apostle. 

" In the course of a month I found the same traces 
of disorder in our common exchequer. What was I 
to do? The situation was critical. Our funds received, 
on his side, a modest contribution from his brother, 
who was employed at GoupiPsj on my side, from a 
kind of bartering with pictures. It was necessary to 
speak out, but there was a danger of hurting his ex- 
aggerated sensitiveness. 

" In order to solve the problem I had to proceed 
with the greatest caution and with an ingratiating air 
that was ill suited to my nature. I must admit that 
this was much more successful than I had antici- 

Not only did Gauguin put their domestic affairs 
in order, he also took the lead in the feverish race of 
work in which both artists were very soon involved. 
He was inspired to do so by his affection for van 
Gogh's simple and primitive good nature and by his 
admiration for his intuitive original gifts. But un- 
fortunately he did not guess that disease was already 
lurking in van Gogh's mind and that it was respon- 
sible for the sudden fits of suspicion which were so 



entirely foreign to the man's nature. At such mo- 
ments Gauguin's direct way of tackling things and 
his curt and blunt manner of asserting his opinions 
were apt to irritate the usually kind and indulgent 
van Gogh, with the clear, childlike eyes, whose joy 
it was to see his friend reviving and regaining his 
whole strength in a short time. 

" How long were we together? I can't say have 
forgotten. In spite of the suddenness of the catas- 
trophe, in spite of the fever of work that had hold 
of me, this time seems to me a century. Though no 
one had a suspicion of it, here were two men per- 
forming a colossal task, useful to them both. Per- 
haps to others as well? Some things there are that 
bear fruit. 

" When I came to Aries, Vincent was caught up 
in the Post-Impressionist school and it had brought 
him to a serious deadlock. Not because this school 
was a bad one, like all schools, but because it was not 
suited to his impatient and independent nature. 

" With all this yellow against violet, all this work 
in the complementary colours, which as far as he was 
concerned was without plan, he only achieved weak, 
imperfect, and monotonous harmonies. They lacked 
the fanfare. I set myself the task of putting this 
straight, which I found easy, as I had a rich and fer- 
tile soil to work in. Like all original natures bearing 
the stamp of personality, Vincent was not afraid of 
his neighbour, nor was he obstinate. From that time 



on, my van Gogh made astonishing progress ; he now 
divined what was in him, the whole range of light in 
full sunshine. . . . 

cc I tell you this to let you see that van Gogh, with- 
out losing a scrap of his originality, profited by my 
teaching. And he was grateful for it every day. This 
is what he means when he writes to Albert Aurier 
that he owes much to Gauguin. 

" When I came to Aries, van Gogh was still in the 
experimental stage, while I, a much older man, had 
taken final shape. I owe something to Vincent, and 
that is, in the knowledge of having been useful to 
him, the confirmation of my earlier ideas about paint- 
ing 5 and then the being able to remind myself in mo- 
ments of difficulty that there are other people more 
unhappy than myself. . . . 

" During the latter part of my stay van Gogh was , 
subject to sudden fits of temper, after which he 
would be silent. On some nights I surprised him as 
he was approaching my bed. How was it that I 
chanced to wake just then? I only had to say in a 
serious voice: c What's wrong with you, Vincent? y 
and without a word he would go back to bed and fall 
into a heavy sleep, 

cc I had taken it into my head to paint his portrait 
as he sat painting his favourite motive, sunflowers. 
When the picture was finished he said to me: c Yes, 
that's me all right, but if s me gone mad.' 

" That same evening we went to a cafe. He took 


a weak absinthe. All of a sudden he threw the glass 
and its contents straight in my face. I dodged it, 
caught him round the waist, and went out of the 
cafe, across the place Victor Hugo. A few minutes 
later Vincent was in his bed; he fell asleep at once 
and did not wake till morning. 

" On waking he said to me quite calmly: c My 
dear Gauguin, I have a vague feeling that I insulted 
you last night/ 

a c I forgive you with all my heart; but yester- 
day's scene may be repeated, and if I am hit I may 
not be able to control myself and then I shall strangle 
you. So let me write to your brother to tell him I am 

" My God, what a day! 

" In the evening, after dinner, I felt I must go 
for a walk by myself and get some fresh air in the 
scent of flowering laurels. I had almost crossed the 
place Victor Hugo when I heard well-known steps 
behind me short and rapid. I turned just as Vin- 
cent was rushing at me with an open razor in his 

" My glance must have been formidable, for he 
stopped and ran off home ashamed of himself. Was 
I cowardly at that moment; ought I not to have dis- 
armed him and calmed him? I have often questioned 
my conscience, but without finding anything with 
which to reproach myself. Let him who will throw 
the first stone. I made for a hotel as fast as I could, 



where, after asking the time, I got a room and went 
to bed. In my excitement I could not get to sleep 
till about three in the morning and woke up fairly 
late, about half past seven. When I reached our house 
I saw a crowd of people. In front of the house were 
some gendarmes and a little man in a derby hat, the 
police superintendent. 

" What had happened? Van Gogh had come home 
and had at once cut off his ear close to the head. 
It had taken him a good while to stop the bleeding, 
for next day there were towels soaked in blood spread 
out on the floor below., and the two rooms and the 
stairs leading* to our bedroom were stained with 

" As soon as he was fit to go out, with his head 
completely enveloped in a beret, he had made for a 
house where, failing a sweetheart, one can be sup- 
plied with an acquaintance, and had given the con- 
cierge his ear, neatly wrapped and enclosed in an 
envelope. c Here's a souvenir of me.' After that he 
went quickly homej went to bed and slept- He took 
care nevertheless to close the shutters and place a 
lighted lamp on a table near the window. Ten min- 
utes later the whole street allotted to the prostitutes 
had heard the story and everybody was talking 
about it. 

" I hadn't a notion of all this when I reached our 
door, where the man in the derby addressed me bru- 
tally in a tone that was more than brusque: c What 


have you done with your friend? ' c I don't know.' 
c Oh yes, you know well enough he's dead.' 

" I don't wish anybody a moment like that and it 
took me some time to gather my thoughts and let my 
heart settle down. I was overwhelmed with anger, 
indignation, sorrow, besides the feeling of shame at 
all these eyes ransacking my person, and I stammered 
out: < Well, monsieur, let us go in; we can have our 
explanation indoors.' 

" Vincent lay doubled up in bed with the sheets 
rolled round him. He looked like a dead man. Cau- 
tiously, very gently, I touched his body and felt the 
warmth which told me he was alive. And then all 
my wits and my energy came back to me. Almost in 
a whisper I said to the police superintendent: c Wake 
this man with every possible care, and if he asks 
after me tell him I have gone to Paris. The sight 
of me might be fatal.' I must admit that from this 
moment the police were as obliging as could be, and 
had the sense to send for a cab and a doctor. 

" On waking, Vincent asked for his friend, his 
pipe, and his tobacco, and even thought of the cash- 
box containing our money. Suspicion, no doubt! But 
it made no impression on me ; I was already impervi- 
ous to suffering. Vincent was taken at once to the 
hospital, and there his brain gave out altogether. 

cc What happened afterwards is known to all who 
are interested in it and there is no need to touch upon 
anything but the infinite suffering of a man who was 


being treated in a madhouse and at intervals of some 
months recovered his reason sufficiently to under- 
stand his condition and to work feverishly at paint- 
ing the most extraordinary pictures we know. 

" His last letter is from Auvers near Pontoise. He 
says he had hoped to recover sufficiently to be able 
to visit me in Brittany, but now he was obliged to 
face the fact that a cure was impossible. c Cher 
Maitre y (the only time he used this expression), 
c when one has known you and caused you pain it is 
fitter to die in possession of one's senses than in a 
state that is merely degrading. 3 

" He put a bullet into his stomach and died a few 
hours later, lying in his bed and smoking his pipe, 
with his mind perfectly clear, full of his art and 
with no hatred for anyone. In Les Monstres Jean 
Dolent writes: ' When Gauguin utters the name 
Vincent, his voice softens/ Without knowing, he 
has guessed it; Dolent is right. We know why." 

In reality van Gogh's fate njade a very deep im- 
pression on Gauguin. When alone with his thoughts, 
he would often work himself up till he burst into 
tears, and at times he even addressed an absent person 
earnestly and tenderly, but when faced by anything 
that appealed to his feelings, he was shy and afraid 
of giving himself away. He took refuge behind a 
mask, which may have concealed a violent emotion, 
but had more the appearance of arrogance. He was 
unwilling to speak of those events in his life which 





had made a strong impression on him, particularly 
where an explanation or excuse for his conduct might 
have been called for. This silence was often inter- 
preted as indifference. He knew that this was so and 
it made him persist in his silence, even when some- 
one tried to relieve the painful situation which often 
arose. And so it was with his association with van 
Gogh ; with a throbbing heart and a wounded spirit 
his reserve only increased the coldness around him. 

He did not stay long in Paris. He went back to 
Brittany, but not to Pont-A ven. He chose Le Pouldu, 
a little fishing- village hidden away among pleasant 
hills, but nearer the sea than Pont-Aven and more 

He had to get away from civilization, with all the 
complicated forms it insists upon before allowing one 
to develop freely and naturally. The views and cus- 
toms of the time are imposed upon one, and it was 
precisely against these that his natural disposition 
was often in revolt. He wanted to escape from the 
narrow limits Christian society sets for what it calls 
the normal, whether in its view of life or the expres- 
sion the artist finds for it. And yet he was haunted 
by the longing for his family, that tragic longing 
which made him constantly think of his position in 

" An artist's duty is to work in order to grow 
strong} I have done this, and everything I have 
brought home meets with nothing but admiration. 



And yet I don't get on. ... But even if it is very 
difficult) there is a chance that one day I shall occupy 
the place I deserve. To whom will you then apply, 
and will your advisers, who are not your paymasters, 
still tell you that your existence is not bound up with 
that of your husband? " 

" A day will come when your children will be able 
to present themselves to anybody, no matter where, 
under their father's name in order to obtain advance- 
ment and honour. At twenty the boys will have to 
make a position for themselves. Do you suppose the 
powerful friends I shall then have made will not be 
ready to help them? And I don ? t believe I should 
have achieved this as a business man. 55 

" You know me: I either calculate (and Pm good 
at figures) or I do not calculate ; and then I fight with 
bared chest, eyes front. 

" Very well, I accept the part allotted to me. That 
being so, I must calculate not to drop the substance 
for the shadow. And the shadow is the position of an 
employee. I should have a salary of 2,000 or 4,000 
francs, what your brothers are getting, and then what 
could I be reproached with? Nothing. And yet we 
should both be in much the same position. As to the 
future, nobody thinks of that. 

" In spite of the assurance of my conscience I have 
not failed to consult others (men of some account) to 
find out if I was doing my duty. They all agreed with 
me, that my business is art, it is my capital, it is the 


future of my children, it is the honour of the name I 
have given them all things which will serve them 
one day. Therefore I work at my art, which is noth- 
ing (in money) for the moment (times are bad) , but 
which will take shape in the future. That is a long 
time to wait, you will say, but what do you expect 
me to do about it, is it my fault? And I am the chief 
sufferer. I can assure you that if the people who know 
had said that I had no talent and was lazy, I should 
have given up long ago. Can one say that Millet 
failed in his duty and abandoned his children to a 
miserable future? 

" I have told you that my intention is to see my 
children, but that I will not venture to go out with 
them, miserably dressed as I am now." 

These tragical alternatives were constantly strug- 
gling in Paul Gauguin's mind, and the existence he 
led intensified the struggle. It was one of hope and 
disappointment, freedom and duty, riches or poverty. 
For him there was no middle course, no golden mean. 
And this was what put him at odds with society, 
where mediocrity is normal. And mediocrity judges 
those who stand outside from two quite opposite 
points of view. They are looked upon either as 
geniuses or as imbeciles. 

It was not long before Gauguin was surrounded 
by a band of young artists, who were ready to wor- 
ship the master and his ideas and to build up a 
school on them, a thing which he found entirely aim- 



less. But it gave him a feeling that he did not stand 
quite alone in his art; it even gave him a foretaste 
of the fame which in spite of his craving for the 
primitive he still regarded as his future aim. 

In many ways Le Pouldu and its inhabitants sup- 
plied a frame for the primitive and romantic j the 
place had grown up in centuries of local and simple 
traditions, and fitted naturally into the scenery, 
which with its undulating forms and wind-swept 
vegetation gave it shelter from the sea and its capri- 
cious changes of weather. And the inhabitants were 
angular people with boldly cut features, whose ex- 
pression bore the stamp of their religious ideas, a 
blend of Christianity and pagan superstition, in 
which the deity was rather the just but cruel judge 
who demands human life than the white, gentle 
Christ who promises eternal life. 

The painted crucifix at the crossways outside the 
town was both comforter and avenger. 

In the little inn Gauguin and his young friends 
used to meet, and it was not long before its bar par- 
lour was converted into a sort of temple in a gro- 
tesque and nondescript style and the windows were 
decorated in bright colours. All the woodwork was 
carved, and among foliage, human and animal forms 
text-like sentences were interwoven, such as Soyez 
amoureuses et vous serez heureuses y or Soyez mys- 
terieuses. Gauguin presided over the little circle that 
assembled here at dusk after an industrious day. His 








longish hair under the beret worn aslant and well 
over the forehead formed a dark frame for the 
powerful, weather-beaten face, making it shine in 
the half-light. A rough suit of rustic cut with carved 
buttons j underneath., a knitted jersey in a bold Breton 
pattern, and over all a loose cloak held together at 
the throat by a gilt chain. All this gave him a singu- 
lar appearance; a pair of big sabots carved and 
painted in barbaric colours completed the picture, 
in which the rather small and elegant but powerful 
hands offered the only striking contrast. Everything 
about him was strongly marked and calculated rather 
to keep people at a distance than to draw them nearer. 

It was as though Gauguin wished to insist that his 
art must not be expected to conform to the normal. 
But there was a certain consistent harmony in his at- 
tire, which together with his personality announced 
that the type of beauty he aimed at was not based on 
current principles. 

It was in Brittany and especially in the year 1889 
that Gauguin's artistic form took definite shape. It 
laid stress on the decorative side both in composition 
and in colour and depended in a very remarkable 
degree on strong and simple effects in the treatment 
of the material and in the colour impression; but 
at the same time he aimed at plastic form both in 
figures and landscape and- achieved this more by his 
drawing than by modelling with the help of light 
and shade. The model and the landscape were quite 



necessary to him, but he took no account of the in- 
stantaneous impression, each thing had to have its 
purpose in the decorative whole., and yet each must 
also express a plastic feeling in virtue of its original 
characteristics. Beauty did not consist in the happy 
chance the artist had lighted uponj it was the char- 
acter of each object and its purely physical expression 
that Gauguin brought together in a harmonious 
whole in order to create beauty. To him colour com- 
position, the colouristic element, was not so much 
the combination which produces the effects of light 
and shade, proximity and distance, as a powerful 
expression of temperamental oscillations in the mind 
on receiving impressions from outside. And yet his 
instinct for nature was so strong and he himself was 
so near to reality that he hated to hear the word 
" synthesis " and it gave him a cold sweat to be taken 
symbolically. Without laying down a definite pro- 
gram he foreshadowed Expressionism in his painting 
and thus found himself in the strongest opposition 
to the Impressionists, who were now becoming more 
and more fashionable in the galleries of the modern 
picture dealers. 

When winter was drawing on, Gauguin went back 
to Paris in order if possible to improve his financial 
position j he was now well supplied with pictures and 
it seemed as though attention was beginning to be 
centred on him in certain quarters. He stayed at 
Schuff enecker's again for a short time, but as soon 


as he had a little money he moved to a room in the 
rue Delambre and was accommodated in the studio 
of a painter named Daniel de Monfreid, whose ac- 
quaintance he had made at Schuffenecker^s. " The 
Captain/* as Monfreid was called by his intimates, 
was a man of ardent activity and varied talents, 
which he turned to account in a small way, now as 
the skipper of a small craft in which he made trips 
all over the Mediterranean, now as a painter, and 
now as a farmer on an estate he owned in the Pyre- 
nees, He was well enough off to be able to pursue 
his different avocations without having to think of 
daily bread, and without such pretensions as might 
urge him to aim high. He was a practical man and 
knew how to adapt his life to his conditions and 
capabilities. It therefore gave him a special pleasure 
to straighten things out for other, less practical men 
when his accurate judgment of artistic values led 
him to regard them as possessed of qualities as yet 
undiscovered. With all his modesty and simplicity 
he had a respect for fame and loved to be in its 
vicinity, even when it overshadowed him. It might 
even be said that he was a' little jealous of others who 
approached too close to a celebrity he regarded as his 
own property. 

In a purely personal way he did not feel particu- 
larly attracted to Gauguin, but he scented the great 
artist. He himself had great outward cordiality of 
manner and a lively interest in everything and every- 



body. Gauguin's reserved and taciturn nature and his 
apparent self-absorption made de Monfreid chary 
of being drawn into too intimate relations with him. 

" Gauguin was a great artist and I admired and 
loved him as such, and helped him, too, to the best 
of my ability; but I am glad I was never very closely 
connected with him personally." 

Gauguin did not have to be very long in Paris be- 
fore discovering that his working powers were giving 
out. In Brittany he had missed the nude model, the 
grown-up B re tonne being extremely reluctant to ex- 
pose her nudity; but the Parisian model, whose fig- 
ure and gestures were adapted to a refined external 
elegance, afforded him no inspiration. In addition 
to this he was distracted by his surroundings, and the 
strong contrast of light and shade when working in- 
doors called for a method entirely opposed to that 
which he aimed at. To be between four walls was 
to him like being in a prison cell, and the room he 
lived in, with its bed, table, chair, and wash-stand, 
was quite in that style. 

If he stayed in Paris it was in order to meet fresh 
people with whom he could discuss his artistic ideas 
and because he still hoped that some day a door might 
open, leading to better financial prospects. 

At the Cafe Voltaire in the place de POdeon a 
number of literary men with new ideas used to meet in 
the evening, and Gauguin joined them. Here sat Ver- 
laine, broken down and ill; Charles Morice eagerly 


championing the young Symbolist movement; Jean 
Moreas and Albert Aurier listening with critical in- 
terest. And here came Rodin and Carriere, who 
with his brilliant appraisement of art was very soon 
acutely interested in Gauguin's exposition of his ar- 
tistic views, so entirely opposed to his own. Occasion- 
ally an intimate little banquet was held at the cafe, 
which helped the habitues to know each other better. 

" A long table. On each side, plates and glasses are 
laid in a straight line, so that the effect of the per- 
spective is to make the table long, very long. This is 
a banquet. Stephane Mallarme is in the chair. Oppo- 
site him sits Jean Moreas, the Symbolist. The guests 
are Symbolists. Perhaps the waiters are too. Right at 
the end of the table is Clovis Hugues (Marseilles). 
Far away at the other end is Barres (Paris) . 

a We dine; there are toasts. The chairman speaks 
first; Moreas replies. Clovis Hugues, plethoric, 
long-haired, and highfalutin, makes a long speech, 
of course in verse. Barres, tall, thin, and bald, quotes 
Baudelaire, dryly and in prose. We listen. The mar- 
ble gives one a chill. My neighbour, who is a young 
man, but fat, with gorgeous diamonds sparkling in 
the thousand pleats of his shirt-front, asks me in a 
whisper: c Is Monsieur Baudelaire here this eve- 
ning? * I scratch my knee: c Yes, he's sitting down 
there, and, by the way, it's about him Barres is talk- 
ing.' c Oh, I should like so much to be introduced 

to him.' 



a Somewhere or other a saint says to his penitents: 
c Beware of the pride of humility. 5 " 

In a circle like this Gauguin came to life and be- 
came more communicative. These writers stimulated 
his intellect, since each of them had a place in his 
own range of ideas, a circumstance which not infre- 
quently spurred him to contradiction. But these men 
also judged his views by the light of their own with- 
out taking up his ideas and following them out. And 
they listened to what he had to say, and evidently 
received reciprocal inspiration from him. Noticing 
this he became persuaded that one day his work too 
must be capable of exciting interest, and perhaps in 
a not too distant -future. But if the evenings at the 
Cafe Voltaire diverted him, cafe life in many ways 
enhanced his feeling of solitude and homelessness 
and at the same time told upon his strength, for dur- 
ing these talks frequent recourse was had to brandy 
and cigarettes without much attention being paid to 
it at the time by himself or others. When he awoke 
after a brief, and heavy sleep in a cold, dark room all 
his misfortunes and responsibilities came stealing 
over him, accompanied by longing for his home and 
the bitter feeling of solitude. His thoughts tore 
at him till his heart throbbed with fear and he 
longed for daylight, dreading to doze off and be 
assailed by nightmares. And with the day began the 
struggle with that cursed heart which could only 
be stilled by the bottle, in company which obliged 


him to conceal his unrest and brought him calm* 
He let things drift during the winter months, 
when he could not work anyway; but spring was ap- 
proaching and some change had to be made. 

One day Gauguin made up his mind to visit 
Copenhagen and see his children. And, once the 
decision had been made, his old inflexible resolution 
returned. He raised money for the journey, enough 
for a stay at a good hoteL His wardrobe was com- 
pleted with a pair of shoes and a new beret ; other- 
wise it had to be content with pressing. Then he 
wrote to say he was coming. At the station in Copen- 
hagen he was received by his wife and the two eldest 
children, Smile, and Aline. His outlandish appear- 
ance was reflected in their looks. The long hair and 
a slight tendency to corpulence had changed their 
recollection of him. And he himself was astonished 
to find how different the image he had preserved of 
his family was from the reality. Mette had cut her 
hair quite short, and the two ingenuous childish fig- 
ures had now become lanky adolescents who greeted 
him with awkward hesitation in clumsy French. 
Mette chaffed him about his altered appearance, and 
this brought some relief and led to practical discus- 
sions. Arm in arm with the two children he was able 
quietly to gain their confidence. 

His stay in Copenhagen was not of long duration, 
nor did the prevailing atmosphere encourage it. 
Many conflicting emotions were at work in Mette's 



mind. Her image of the husband she had been fond 
of had changed even during the last two years of 
their life together, and although during their sepa- 
ration it had recovered something of its former at- 
traction, causing her to miss him in her loneliness, 
he was now so altered that her apprehensions about 
resuming their life in common entirely overcame 
the cordiality she would have liked to show him, 
since she pitied him as much as she pitied herself. 
Being more practical than amatory, she did not let 
her feelings run away with her, but reviewed all the 
consequences this might entail. She came to the con- 
clusion that, things being as they were, he too would 
be best served by her acting as she did and had done. 
She took her stand on the present, where he thought 
of the future. 

With Gauguin's powerfully erotic nature the 
meeting with Mette had revived his love for her, so 
that he interpreted her attitude as treachery to him, 
planned by her correct and unimaginative family, 
which placed duty before feelings. But he felt sure 
of being able to overcome this resistance in time, and 
this contributed to make him still more strongly at- 
tached to his family. Not only had his sense of duty 
been roused, but also his instinct as the husband of 
the woman he had loved and who had to be recon- 
quered. But the strongest bond was that which bound 
him to the two eldest children, especially Aline. The 
three younger ones were too small to interest him, 


; as things were, their childish shyness made 
them doubly strange to him. But his daily intercourse 
with the two eldest brought back memories and 
loosened the tongues of all three, giving him an in- 
sight into their minds, where he found a tenderness 
he had so sorely missed and longed to be able to ex- 
press in the life he had been leading. With them he 
could be what he was in his art 5 simply and naturally 
he could touch the chords of tenderness in living 
human children. They were his and he saw much 
of himself in them, especially in Aline, who bore a 
strong outward resemblance to him, and whose dis- 
position oscillated between violent emotion and shy 
reserve. She was the one who best understood the 
happiness of having her father with them, as she 
had missed him most and had also felt ashamed when 
asked who and where her father was, the father 
whose name was always mentioned with a certain 
awkwardness in the family circle. 

What a joy it was to these children when in the 
mild April weather they drove in an open carriage 
through the streets and people turned to look at the 
queer foreigner who sat leaning back between his two 
children, Emile proud and cheerful in his school- 
boy's uniform, Aline stirred and happy! Many a 
tangled perplexity was smoothed out in Gauguin's 
mind in the three weeks during which he laid it open 
to his children. 



GAUGUIN was disinclined to talk about the realities 
of his sailor days; the actual life on board ship had 
left no impressions beyond those of coarseness and 
fisticuffs, which were not to his taste. Although he 
was a good boxer, strong and lithe, he had no dis- 
position for contests of strength. But the dream of a 
voyage to parts unknown, the fleeting memories of 
a wild shore-leave, had left their marks and con- 
stantly recurred to him. In his long sleepless nights 
he read books of travel, Pierre Loti, filisee Reclus, 
and in particular LeJournaldes Voyages. His dreams 
of roving were still alive. They added to his rest- 
lessness and his desire to get away from a society in 
which he felt less and less at home and where he no 
longer found the inspiration for realizing his artistic 
ideal* Not yet had he quite found the formula for 
his painting; it still fell short of the greatest. And 
that was what he aimed at; he wished to be in the 
forefront of contemporary art and to reach the zenith 
of his own powers as artist and creator. 


" If some day the clouds disperse, one should be 
able to bid defiance to oneself or to say: c I haven't 
got it, but I shall get it.' And to go on like this until 
one is old." 

The dream of roving grew in his mind and urged 
him to new voyages of discovery, and one day he de- 
termined that it should be realized, so that at last he 
might come home bringing his dream with him. The 
dream of the naked primitive beauty in nature. Le 
Mariage de Loti and a tempting official description 
of the glories of the South Sea Islands decided him 
for Tahiti. 

cc The day will come, and that soon, when I shall 
hide in the forests of the South Sea island to live in 
rapture, in peace, and in art, surrounded by a family, 
far from the European fight for money. There in 
Tahiti, in the beautiful nights of the tropics, I shall 
be able to listen to the gently murmuring music of 
my quivering heart in loving harmony with the mys- 
terious beings that surround me. Free at last, without 
money cares, I shall be able to love, to sing, and to 

He was still taking refuge in his dreams, but when 
his decision was made in earnest, his practical sense 
awoke and he returned to the realities of existence, 
but strong, active, and full of hope. All the worries, 
difficulties, and encumbrances of daily life became' 
trifles compared with the prospect which now 
opened before him. 



His mistress Juliette, who had only known him 
for the last three months, watched with surprise and 
misgiving the intense determination that had so sud- 
denly possessed her otherwise introspective and low- 
spirited friend. All the preparations he was making 
pointed to a change, and his plans were made at the 
Cafe Voltaire. Thirty of his best pictures were to be 
sold at auction. He got Octave Mirbeau to write the 
introduction to the catalogue and shortly before the 
sale it was printed in the Echo de Paris, to which 
Mirbeau was a contributor. Through the interven- 
tion of people of influence Gauguin was given an 
official but unpaid post in Tahiti by the Director of 
the Fine Arts, Ary Renan, together with a promise 
to buy some of the pictures he would paint there. The 
auction itself was very well attended, everyone had 
been drummed up and his friends of the Cafe Vol- 
taire applauded vigorously. The sale brought in 
9,860 francs, and the highest price paid was 900 
francs for the picture representing Jacob wrestling 
with the angel in the presence of a number of Bre- 
tonne women. Another picture, La Belle Angele, a 
portrait of Madame Satre, the hostess of Pont-Aven, 
was bought by some friends and offered to her as a 
j gift; but she declined it on account of the devastating 
criticism it met with from some of her more distin- 
guished artist visitors. 

On March 23rd a farewell party was held at the 
Cafe Voltaire, when Gauguin's health was drunk in 

1 890 



Beaujolais after an improvised speech > full of feel- 
ing, from Jean Dolent; and this time Gauguin did 
not succeed in disguising his emotion: in a scarcely 
audible voice he was only able to stammer a laconic 

At last the future he had so long hoped for seemed 
to be approaching. 

cc My adored Mette y 

cc An adoration which often enough is full of bit- 
terness. As you will see, our letters have crossed, and 
if this last letter has been delayed it is because I was 
waiting for the photographs but anyhow let us 
not return letter for letter (I beseech you), but let us 
write what we have to write at the proper time. I 
know how difficult you must find the present time, 
but now the future is assured and I shall be happy 
very happy, if you will share it with me. 

" Failing passions, we shall be able with white 
hair to enter an era of peace and spiritual happi- 
ness, surrounded by our children, flesh of our flesh. 
As I have told you: your family is wrong to put you 
against me, but in spite of that I will not take any 
notice of them. 

" Yesterday a dinner was given in my honour at 
which forty-five people were present, painters and 
authors, presided over by Mallarme. Verses, toasts, 
and the warmest homage paid to me. I assure you 
that in three years 5 time I shall have made a success 



that will permit us you and I to live un- 
troubled by difficulties. You shall rest and I shall 

" Perhaps one day it will dawn on you what sort 
of man you have made the father of your children. 
I am proud of my name and I will make it a great 
name,, and I hope nay, I am Sure that you will not 
be the one to soil it even if you should meet a dash- 
ing captain. If you go to Paris I will ask you to asso- 
ciate only with decent, straightforward people, and 
not charlatans. 

" When you come let Morice know by letter be- 
forehand, as he is a bachelor. He will at once assist 
you to meet decent people. The government has 
given me a formal mission, so that wh,en I get there 
I shall have a call on the personnel of the Navy, the 
hospital, and so on. Furthermore I have had a com- 
mission for a picture, 3,000 francs, when I come 
back. All this will help to bring us together again. 
Good-bye, dear Mette, dear children, love me well. 
And when I come back we will be married again. 
So this is a betrothal kiss that I send you today. 

"Your Paul" 

Gauguin was too full of the successful way in 
which his wishes were being accomplished to notice 
the incongruity in conventional eyes between the bo- 
hemian life into which he had been forced by cir- 
cumstances and the respectable future to which he 


was looking forward. In spite of bitter experience he 
had not yet learned how strict and short-sighted are 
the laws of respectability and how unwilling they are 
to admit the truth that necessity is the mother of 
lawfulness in the natural instincts. Especially with 
strong and productive men whose creative ability 
calls on them to follow their nature without conceal- 
ment or excuse. But society only forgives the^ peni- 
tent, or him who pays in cash. 

Gauguin could neither repent nor pay; he had to 
pursue his object, guided by his nature and strong 
sexual instinct. 

His parting with Juliette was not easy. Poor child, 
she knew that to her he would not come back; she 
would be left alone with the child she was expecting. 
All he had promised her was that if it was a daughter 
she should be called Marie, his mother's second 
name. He would not forget her. 

At the beginning of April 1891 he boarded at 
Marseilles the boat which was to take him to his 
long-wished-f or Tahiti. In the very first days his im- 
patience piled up clouds on the horizon. 

a Dear Daniel, 

" Would you believe it, my voyage via Noumea is 
likely to take a long time and to cost an additional 
500 francs, as they tell me the connection is as ir- 
regular as it can be. It is quite likely (they tell me 
again) to take three to five months. 


" So warn our friends : if any of them thinks of 
making the voyage let him take the direct route, 
New York-San Francisco^ etc. 

" It was stupid of me to take second class, third is 
almost as good and I should have saved 500 francs 

" Just a word in haste so as not to miss the mail. 

Give Juliette a cordial kiss from me. 
" Hearty greetings to all artist friends. 

P. Go 

But fortune seemed to smile on Gauguin. At 
Noumea the boat lay ready to put to sea, out into the 
great Pacific towards his goal: the little South Sea 
Islands which look like innocent fly-spots on the map 
of the world. One would think these little islands 
had no importance, at least to European eyes, and 
might be left in peace a reminder of paradise and 
of primitive, carefree barbarism, in contrast to the 
economic struggle which life has become in civilized 

a I am going to Tahiti, a little island in the ocean, 
where one can live one's material life without money. 
A terrible time is preparing for the next generation 
in Europe: the realm of gold. Everything is rotten, 
people and art. One is continually torn to pieces. 
Down there in any case the Tahitians have only to 
stretch out their hands to find food in a soil of won- 
derful fertility and beneath a sky that knows no 



But European and American skippers in their 
voyages over the ocean have sought shelter and ad- 
ventures on these idyllic islands, and on their recom- 
mendation the governments have sent a cruiser and 
planted their flag with an alarming salute of guns. 
Thus is inaugurated the extermination, by the aid of 
Christianity, European culture (in other words, fear 
of nature's nakedness), and syphilis, of a barbaric 
and beautiful race, who are robbed of their patri- 
mony for no better purpose than that it may serve as 
a counter in an unimportant commercial treaty be- 
tween two great powers. In a hundred years the traces 
of this race will only be found in the ethnographical 
museums of the great capitals, or will be studied as 
primitive art a blurred picture of a people whose 
only characteristics were beauty and natural vitality. 
As yet the ruins had not collapsed, the broken statue 
still smiled amid a rich and luxuriant nature. 

For these islands Gauguin was bound} his eye 
scanned the horizon daily for a group, Tahiti, to ap- 
pear above the infinite surface of the Pacific, where 
all that was to be seen was the narrow streak of the 
ship's wake and the string of porpoises. 

Gauguin was familiar with the sea; the three 
months' voyage had a calming effect on him. A 
gentler mood came over him as he recalled the times 
when as a youth he had stood as now, looking out for 
land, and often it had been the coast of that land on 
which he had just turned his back that he had then 


longed to see. Now too, as he was carried farther and 
farther from France until no more than its bare out- 
line was visible, he had to admit to himself that, even 
if his life had often been a hard one, it had been very 
far from empty and was bound up with emotions and 
events from which he could not entirely dissociate 
himself, although something recalcitrant in his na- 
ture was constantly in revolt against them. His ab- 
sorption in the greatness of European art became 
clearer to him day by day; it was the standard by 
which he would measure his own greatness ; and then 
the recalcitrant spirit returned, bidding him follow 
nothing but his natural instincts. It was as though 
there were two personalities within him which led 
to continual conflict both in his life and in his art. On 
the one side culture and education, the' admiration of 
technical skill and decorative beauty j on the other 
the barbarian who was bent on following his primi- 
tive and natural instincts and discovering the naked 
beauty in nature. Now that he believed he could 
combine his dream of the manifestation of the primi- 
tive instincts with reality, he was encountering it 
with the eyes of the European and with the tension 
resulting from being free to be honest with his nature 
without having to consider the moral laws estab- 
lished by the society to which he really belonged and 
from which his pretensions did not permit him en- 
tirely to liberate himself. In his art he could show 
that his dream possessed a beauty of its own. And at 


the same time the dream, being translated into re- 
ality, might proclaim that the healthy and normal 
manifestations of life are those which have most in- 
fluence on the course of lif e, and that therefore, re- 
gardless of other considerations, he must allow his 
own nature and instincts to be the fundamental mo- 
tives in his art. 

*" I don't complain; I say in the words of Jesus: 
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that 
which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Thanks to this, I 
can satisfy my flesh for a few coppers, and my spirit 
is left in peace. 

" Thus I am exhibited to the public as an animal 
bereft of any feeling and incapable of selling nay soul 
for a pearl. I have not been a Werther and I don't 
intend to be a Faust. Who knows? Perhaps the in- 
fected and the alcoholic will be the men of the fu- 
ture. It looks to me as if morality, the sciences, and 
all the rest of it were heading for a new morality 
which possibly will be the opposite of that of today. 
Marriage, the family, and a whole lot of fine things 
that are dinned into my ears give me a distinct im- 
pression of flying off at full gallop. And then you ask 
me to agree with you. 

a Coition is a serious matter. 

" In matrimony the greater cuckold is the lover, 
as a Palais-Royal piece tells us: The "Luckiest of 

" I had bought some photographs at Port Said of 


the Fall of Man, taken in the very act. They were 
hung quite openly in my bedroom. Men, women, 
even children have been amused by them 5 pretty 
nearly everybody was amused for a moment and 
thought no more of it. Only those who call them- 
selves respectable wouldn't come to see me, and they 
think about it all the year round. 

" Think it over and stick up something indecent 
in full view over your door 5 then you'll get rid of the 
respectable people, the most insufferable of God's 

So hard a shell had he grown 5 but the shell con- 
cealed forces both strong and tender which could 
now be set free if only he could find a simple and 
natural mode of life to nullify the effect that lack of 
appreciation, together with strong personal convic- 
tion, had had upon a prolific and creative nature, but 
one which was critical and exacting, restlessly seek- 
ing for a connection between logical reasoning and 
strong emotion, between reality and illusion. 

All this Gauguin hoped to find in the group of 
islands which was now becoming visible on the 

" On the night of June 8th, after a voyage of 
sixty-three days from place to place, days which for 
me were full of impatient dreaming, of feverish 
longing for the promised land, we caught sight of 
some strange specks of light moving in zigzag fashion 


on the sea, A black cone detached itself from the dark 

" We rounded Moorea and came in sight of Ta- 

cc A few hours later day dawned. We approached 
the reefs at slow speed and, making for Venus Point, 
we glided into the Papeete channel and cast anchor 
in the roads without mishap. 

" At first sight therfc is nothing romantic about 
this little island, nothing that can be compared with 
the magnificent bay of Rio de Janeiro, for instance, 

" But I gazed at it in deep emotion without a 
thought of comparison. It is the top of a mountain 
which was submerged at the time of the Deluge ; 
only the extreme summit was left above water. A 
family sought shelter there (no doubt) and founded 
a race. And then the coral has built itself up around 
the new island. It has continued to spread, but pre- 
serves its original aspect of loneliness and submission, 
an aspect which is set off by the vastness of the ocean. 

<c At ten in the morning I presented myself to the 
Governor (the Negro Lacascade), who received me 
as a person of importance. This honour I owed to the 
mission with which the French Government had en- 
trusted me. I don't know why. 

" An artistic mission, no doubt j but in the Negro's 
eyes this word was only a synonym for espionage, and 
I did all I could to disabuse him of his error, but 



in vain. His whole entourage shared his view, and 
when I told them my mission was unsalaried, no- 
body would believe me." 

Gauguin was disappointed with the capital of Ta- 
hiti. Its life was distinguished neither by European 
enterprise and order nor by the beauty and deco- 
rative sense of the natives. Everything was half-and- 
half a blend of European boredom and the natu- 
ral effortless life of the natives. The characteristics 
of each race had been effaced ; a careless indifference 
had taken possession of life in Papeete. Moreover, 
when Gauguin landed, the town was full of excite- 
ment and misgiving. The last descendant of the an- 
cient royal race was on his death-bed. He it was who 
had maintained with dignity the rights of the na- 
tives ; he had been fully recognized and was respected 
by the colonial administration, and worshipped by 
his subjects. But King Pomare V was the last who in 
virtue of his natural dignity and royal birth could 
claim respect in both camps. Even if his advice were 
not asked, the colonial administration showed him 
the consideration due to the supreme representative 
of a whole people and thus to the people itself. He 
exercised an invisible sway which was incomparably 
greater than the influence the French Government 
had conceded him, and he had known how to use it 
for the benefit of the immigrants as well as of the 
natives. His death betokened a change, and it was not 
easy to say which direction this would take. 


" The King died a few days after my arrival; his 
funeral has had to wait till everyone in the island and 
the neighbouring islands could be notified. 

cc You cannot imagine what a funeral it was. A 
group from each village sat on the grass singing in 
turn their famous hymenees (choral chants in several 
parts) , and this went on all night. For anyone fond 
of music this is a real treat, as this people has ex- 
traordinary musical gifts. Two chants, man and 
woman, alternating on a shrill note; other parts 
forming an accompaniment with extraordinary har- 
monies. A group of men, basses, imitate the sound of 
the drum, simply to give the rhythm (a very charac- 
teristic rhythm). No, it is impossible to imagine 
anything more harmonious and abstract. Not one of 
them sings a false note. 

" The hearse, covered with flowers, was drawn by 
mules which the artillery had decked with nets of 
black wool. On arriving at the grave in the wood, 
the priests and chiefs delivered speeches in Tahitian. 

" I am writing to you in the evening. This silence 
of the Tahitian night is stranger than all the rest. 
It does not exist anywhere else; not a bird's cry to 
disturb its peace. Here and there a great dry leaf 
falls to the ground, but without giving you the idea 
of noise. It is more like the passing of a spirit. The 
natives often roam about at night, but silently, with 
bare feet. Always this silence! I understand how 
these people can sit by the hour, by the day, without 



saying a word, gazing at the sky in melancholy. 
I feel how all this is about to envelop me, and at 
this moment I have an extraordinary sense of re- 
pose. . . . 

" What a beautiful night it is! Tonight thousands 
of individuals are doing the same as 1 ; they let life 
glide on and their children grow up without their 
aid. All these people go about everywhere, into any 
village, along any road, sleep in some house, get a 
meal and so on, without even saying thank-you, and 
are ready to return it. And we call them savages! 
They sing, they never steal, my door is never shut, 
they don't plant themselves on you. A couple of 
Tahitian expressions characterize them: let or a na 
(good-day, good-bye, thanks) and O na tu (I don't 
care, what does it matter? etc.). And we call them 

" Don't think me an egoist for leaving you, but let 
me live like this for a time. Those who reproach me 
do not know all there is in an artist's nature 5 why 
should they pester us with duties like their own? We 
do not pester them with ours. 

cc I still think of you all with tenderness." 

Gauguin had not been many weeks in Papeete be- 
fore discovering that it was not the place to give him 
the inspiration he wanted. The Europeans and the 
natives had infected one another, making their inter- 
course an indolent and blunted compromise, which 
reduced all activity to the barely necessary. The 


Maori opposes a happy serenity to all unforeseen 
events and capricious manifestations on the part of 
the elements. Without being exactly indifferent they 
consider the case and say: cc O na tu" which is as 
much as to say: " It doesn't concern me, it's nature's 
affair to straighten it out." In these islands nature 
only shows her best sides ; there are no beasts of prey, 
no venomous snakes, no dangerous insects to speak of, 
that need be feared, no catastrophes to be -avoided. 
The worst trouble is the sudden hurricanes and the 
floods they occasion 5 but these are not to be resisted, 
and next day the sun shines as brightly as before in 
the cool breeze. All that has to be done is to clean up 
the mess, put the houses back in their places, and 
then everything looks after itself for the Maori. 
But to the European O na tu is a dangerous poison, 
a convenient catch- word for " I don't care/' cc Let it 
go at that," which undermines their inclination for 
work and reduces them to veranda loungers, content 
to let things slide and take to their absinthe when 
they have set the wheels going for the daily round. 
The satisfaction of their natural requirements makes 
no great demand on them; nature is accommodating, 
and never more so than in the person of the native 
woman, who is remarkable for her good looks and 
regards it as a matter of course to abandon herself to 
a man if he asks her. And if she likes him she comes 
back, just as naturally as she stays away if he is in- 
different to her. But in her relations with the Euro- 



pean, who acts according to his prejudices and there- 
fore by calculation, the Maori woman with her 
excellent natural instinct learns to calculate in her 
turn and she soon sees that the fact of being vahine to 
a white man gives her a special position which en- 
titles her to make demands. If she does not discover 
this at once for herself., the enterprising traders of the ' 
islands the Chinese are there to make it clear 
to her. But her natural instinct becomes blunted, and 
this is still more so with her children by the white 
men, who cannot be turned loose in their native 
state like the legitimate Maori children, but become 
hangers-on of the semi-European community, and 
to them O na tu means: " Let it all slide." 

All this Gauguin saw and experienced, and his 
vigorous nature reacted against it. And King Po- 
mare's death gave him a hint that the romance of 
the South Sea Islands was nearing its end. During the 
actual funeral ceremony he had witnessed the Maori 
tradition in all its glory, but on the morrow it had 
sunk into the ground., and the daily life of Papeete 
had resumed its lazy course. 

cc And everything fell back into the old groove. 
We were only a king the less. With him there van- 
ished the last trace of former customs and greatness. 
With him the Maori tradition died. It was an end 
indeed. Alas, civilization triumphed, the military 
spirit, business and officialdom. 

" A profound melancholy came over me. Here 
-i 5 S- 







had I come this long way to find the very thing I had 
fled from. The dream that had brought me to Tahiti 
had been cruelly unmasked by actuality; it was the 
old Tahiti I loved. But I could not bring myself to 
believe it was completely wiped out, that this beau- 
tiful race had not preserved some of its old glory 
somewhere or other. But how was I, alone, without 
information or backing, to find the traces of that dis- 
tant mysterious past, if they still existed? to re- 
cover the fire that was quenched, revive the flame 
among all these ashes? 

" However badly things may go against me, it is 
not my habit to give up the struggle without having 
tried everything, even the impossible. My decision 
was soon made. I would leave Papeete, go far away 
from the European centre. I had a feeling that if 
I adopted the natives' life outright, living among 
them in the bush, I might at last through patience 
overcome their distrust and get to know what I 

" An officer of gendarmes kindly offered me his 
horse and carriage. So one morning I drove off to 
find a cabin for myself. 

" My vahine accompanied me; Titi was her 
name. She was half-English, spoke only a little 
Freixch. She had put on her best dress in honour of 
the day, a flower behind her ear in Maori fashion, 
and her bast hat, which she had plaited herself, was 
decorated with a wreath of orange-coloured shells 



over a band of braided flowers. With her black hair 
floating about her shoulders, proud of driving in a 
carriage, proud of being smartly dressed, and proud 
of being the vahme of a white man she believed to 
be both rich and powerful, she was really handsome 
and there was nothing ridiculous in her great pride, 
so well does an air of majesty become the faces of 
this race. Their long feudal history and their time- 
honoured memories of great chiefs give them an in- 
delible stamp of pride. 

" I know very well that according to strictly 
European ideas her very self-seeking love would 
scarcely have weighed more than the venal consent 
of a street- walker, but I discerned something else in 
it. Those eyes and those lips could not lie. Love is so 
much in the blood of all Tahitian women, it over- 
shadows all else to such an extent that, self-seeking 
or not it is still love." 

The cabin Gauguin had hired was situated at 
Mateiea, a strip of level ground between the hills 
and the sea, about twenty-eight miles from Papeete. 
Coconut palms and breadfruit-trees surrounded the 
hut. Above the red earth was a lattice-work fence 
through which he had a view of the radiant yellow 
beach, the long line of surf where the waves, capped 
with glittering foam, drew streaks of shining green, 
shading from light to dark. And far out the dark ul- 
tramarine streak of the Pacific was outlined against 
white clouds floating in a sky whose brightness 


changed colour with the hours of the day, vanished, 
and was reborn with it. Behind the hut the plain ex- 
tended, flat and open, and on it were groups o coco- 
nut palms with slender stems and huge feathery 
leaves that swayed and turned in the sea breeze with 
a varied play of colour. And the cloven mountain 
rose steeply from the plain, giving the final touch to 
a landscape nature alone had shaped. There the 
peaceful open plain joined the inaccessible heights 
where dwelt Tupa-pau, the spirits. The cleft with its 
thickets of mango-trees and the river as a road was 
the only approach to the mysterious guardian of the 
peace and harmony of the place. And as a detached 
and living part of this nature, in complete accord- 
ance with its rhythm, there was the Maori with his 
powerful naked limbs, a skin which played with the 
sun's beams and took its colour from them, and a 
carefree, harmonious movement which betokened a 
happy agreement with nature. 

Gauguin gazed at this scene with emotion. It 
stirred his artistic dream and gave it life. It was there, 
right before his eyes as a reality 5 but the question was 
whether he himself was fitted to enter into this re- 
ality, whether, after all, he would not be left stand- 
ing outside, alone and a stranger, as the European 
who merely sees and is conscious of the peace he so 
sorely longs for, without finding it for himself. 

" That evening I went for a walk on the beach 
and smoked a cigarette. The sun was sinking rapidly 



md was already half hidden by the island of Moorea, 
which was on my right hand. The strong contrasts 
3f light brought out black against the flaming 
sky the mountains, whose jagged peaks were like 
the battlements of old castles. I wonder if it is not 
lue to some association that I am haunted by this 
feudal idea in the presence of this landscape? Look 
at that mountain summit, it has the shape of a gigan- 
tic crest. The waves roar round it like a vast mob 
which never reaches it. Alone towering above all 
this ruined greatness stands The Crest the pro- 
tector the neighbour of heaven. 

" From it I let my eyes wander to the great abyss 
of ocean which swallowed up the swarm of the 
living, guilty of having meddled with the tree of 
knowledge, guilty of the great sin of understanding. 
And The Crest itself becomes a head which by some 
points of resemblance conjures up forme the Sphinx 5 
that mighty cleft, which might be its mouth, smiles, 
a majestic smile full of irony or pity, at the waves, 
wherein the past is asleep. The night came suddenly. 
Moorea slept. Silence. I learned to know the silence 
of the Tahitian night. 

" The beating of my heart was all that could be 
heard. From my bed, in the light of the moonbeams 
which crept in, I could distinguish the reeds which 
at regular intervals formed the wall of the hut. One 
might imagine it a musical instrument, the reed-pipe 
of ancient times, which the Tahitian calls vivo. The 


instrument is silent all day, but now at night, thanks 
to the moon, it plays to us in memory the dear old 
melodies. I fell asleep to its notes. Between me and 
the sky there was nothing but the high, light roof 
of pandanus-leaves, in which the lizard lives. In 
sleep I could imagine the free expanse of space over 
my head, the vault of heaven, the stars. I was so far 
away from those prisons, the European houses. 

a A Maori hut does not drive one into exile, does 
not shut one off from life and infinite space. And yet 
I felt lonely. The inhabitants of the district and I 
watched each other, and the distance between us did 
not grow less. 

" In two days my supplies would run out. What 
then? I had imagined that money would procure me 
the necessaries of life. A fond delusion! If one would 
live one must have recourse to nature. She is rich and 
she is generousj she does not say no to him who asks 
for a share of the treasures she hoards, in the trees, 
the mountains, and the sea; but then one must climb 
the highest trees, go up into the mountains and re- 
turn with heavy loads on one's back, one must catch 
fish, dive to the bottom of the sea and gather the 
shellfish that cling to the rocks. 

" So for the moment I, the civilized man, was in- 
ferior to these savages who lived happily around me, 
where money that is not derived from nature cannot 
provide the indispensable good things that nature 
produces. And as I was thinking over my position, 



mpty of stomach and sad at heart, I caught sight of 
native coming towards me with cries and wild ges- 
ures. His expressive signs translated his words and 
understood that my neighbour was inviting me to 
inner. But I felt embarrassed. I shook my head. A 
sw minutes later a little girl came up with some 
Dod neatly wrapped in fresh leaves, laid it on my 
ireshold without a word, and departed. I was hun- 
ry and I accepted, as silent as she. Soon afterwards 
le man passed my hut; he smiled at me and without 
:opping said in a tone of interrogation the single 
r ord: c Paieu? ' I guessed: c Have you had enough? y 

" This was the beginning of mutual accommoda- 
on between the savages and me. Savages ! The word 
ame instinctively to my lips as I gazed on these dark 
reatures with cannibals 5 teeth. And yet I was be- 
inning to appreciate their real charm. That little 
rown head lying there under the cluster of great 
iromon-leaves the child who studied me with- 
iit my knowing it and ran away when I met his eyes.' 
was the object of their observation, as they were of 
tine: I, the stranger, who knew neither their lan- 
nage nor their customs, not even the first and most 
itural accomplishments of life. To them I was c the 
,vage/ as they were to me. And perhaps it was I 
ho was wrong." 

As usual when he came to a new place it took 

auguin a long time to get to work. He had* to be- 
>me quite at home with the place and its inhabit- 



ants, and as this was so entirely new it took him 
longer than usual. He was not satisfied with realizing 
the pure and simple beauty of the Maoris; he had to 
try to penetrate their soul in order to understand that 
expression of something mysterious which corre- 
sponded so wonderfully and beautifully with the 
constant, unalterable mood of their natural surround- 
ings. There was a purely physical calm and har- 
mony about them, which was only broken by little 
momentary fits of childish caprice; otherwise the 
only change in this harmony was the gentle hourly 
shading of their expression from the freshness of the 
morning to the evening's melancholy, in agreement 
with the moods of nature. It was as though nature 
were mirrored in them, possessed them, and dealt 
with them as she pleased. 

The religious ideas of these people were closely 
connected with nature, and their divinities were the 
wind, the sun, and the moon; the last of these, Hina^ 
was a goddess of supreme importance, as she ruled 
the night, and at night the Tufapau the spirits of 
their ancestors came out to watch over the chil- 
dren of men, and stood by their side either to protect 
them or to condemn their evil deeds. It was this 
mystic, ever present connection between nature and 
mankind that Gauguin sought to reproduce in his 
art; but he could not be satisfied with observing it, 
he had to endeavour to reach its very essence; and 
here, as a reflective European, he shrank from taking 



advantage of the Maoris' compliance before he could 
feel in himself something of their simple directness 
of soul. 

" I began to work at all kinds of studies and 
sketches, but the landscape dazzled and confused me 
with its bold and violent colours. Uncertain as ever, 
I stood from twelve o'clock to two feeling my way. 
And then in reality it turned out to be so simple to 
paint it as I saw it, to put a red or a blue on the canvas 
without so much calculation. 

a Golden bodies in the streams charmed me by 
their form. Why did I hesitate tp pour out all this 
gold and all this sunny joy over my canvas? Hide- 
bound European training, the typical fear of debili- 
tated races for strong direct expression. In order 
wholly to identify myself with the character of a 
Tahitian face, with the charm of a Maori smile, I 
had long wished to do a portrait of one of my neigh- 
bours, a woman of unmixed Tahitian blood. 

" I seized the opportunity of asking her one day 
when she had ventured so far as to enter my hut to 
look at some photographs of paintings. She exam- 
ined Olympia with particular interest. 

" < What do you think of it? ' I asked, for I had 
learne^ a few Tahitian words in the months during 
which I had spoken no French. She replied: ' She's 
downright pretty.' 

" I smiled at this remark, it touched me. She had 
a sense of beauty. But what would the professors at 


the Ecole des Beaux-Arts say of her? She suddenly 
added, breaking the silence that prevails while 
thoughts are taking shape: c Is she your wife? 3 

" < Yes.' 

" I lied. I Olympiads tanel 

a While she was absorbed in some religious paint- 
ings by the Italian primitives I tried to make a sketch 
of her, doing my best to fix that enigmatic smile. She 
made an ugly face and said in an almost resentful 
tone: c Aita (No)/ and disappeared. 

" An hour later she was back, handsomely dressed, 
with a flower behind her ear. 

" What had been passing in her mind? Why did 
she come back? Was it a case of coquetry, the pleas- 
ure of yielding, after having resisted? Or the magic 
attraction of forbidden fruit? Or a caprice pure and 
simple without any external motive, the sheer whim 
which is in the blood of the Maori woman? 

" I quickly discovered that my study of the model, 
besides giving me a profound insight into the work- 
ings of her mind, placed her physically in my power 5 
it had the effect of a vehement and silent prayer, of 
an' absolute and final conquest. 

" She was not exactly pretty according to Euro- 
pean ideas, but she was beautiful. All her features 
showed a Raphaelesque harmony in their curves, 
and her mouth seemed moulded by a sculptor who 
could express the joy and passion of thought and kiss. 
And I saw in her face the dread of the unknown, the 



melancholy of bitterness mingled with pleasure, and 
I saw there the happy possession of a passivity which 
appeared to be yielding and which in the last resort 
retained the mastery. 

cc I worked passionately and in the greatest haste, 
for I had a feeling that she might change her mind 
at any moment. I have put into her portrait all that 
the heart revealed to my eye, and ; above all, that 
which the eye alone would have been incapable of 
seeing, the glowing wealth of latent forces. . . . 
Her noble forehead with its prominent lines made 
me think of Edgar Poe's saying that there is no per- 
fect beauty without a certain singularity in its pro- 
portions. And the flower behind her ear was listening 
to its scent. 

" I now worked better and more freely. 

" But my loneliness weighed upon me. I saw many 
young women with calm and carefree eyes, pure, 
unmixed Tahitians, and I dare say one or other of 
them was willing to share my existence. But they all 
wanted to be captured in Maori fashion (mau 
seize), brutally, without a word. They all, so to 
speak, desired to be raped. And they actually intimi- 
dated me, those at least who were not living with a 
tane. They looked at us men so boldly, with such 
dignity and pride. And besides, one was told that 
many of them were ill, suffering from the disease 
with which the European has infected the savages, 
as a first and undoubtedly an essential element of his 


civilization. And for this reason I did not respond 
when the old people pointed one of them out to me, 
saying: ' Mau tera (Take her) '5 I had not sufficient 
courage and confidence. 

" I sent word to Titi that I should be delighted 
to see her. And this in spite of her having a terrible 
reputation in Papeete for having buried one lover 
after another. 

" But the experiment was unsuccessful, and the 
boredom I suffered in living with this woman, ac- 
customed to the luxuries offered by officials, showed 
plainly enough what progress I had made in bar- 
barism. After a couple of weeks we parted irrevoca- 
bly, Titi and I. 

" Alone again! " 

Alone 5 that meant lonely, and loneliness tor- 
mented Gauguin not merely in one way, but in many 
ways. It called up memories and longings, and with 
them it roused his conscience; it made him acutely 
aware how seldom he received news from Europe, 
and this roused his suspicions. In spite of all their 
protestations on his departure, his friends seemed to 
have vanished off the face of the earth. Of course 
there was something in what Octave Mirbeau wrote 
of him: 

cc His thoughts fly to the land of light and mystery 
which he has already explored. There he believes is 
to be found a source of art, dormant and untouched, 
which is new and accords with his dream. That is 



why he has such need of solitude, of peace and silence, 
where he may be better able to listen to himself and 
will have a greater sense of being alive." 

What Mirbeau wrote was true, but Gauguin never 
intended that he should be forgotten on that account. 
He had not fled from civilization in order to bury 
himself in order that his name might be blotted out. 
He had not gone into exile. It was by no means his 
intention to sit on a desert island and make poetry 
for himself, to build his hut and live at peace without 
troubling others with what he had at heart. On the 
contrary: he wished to transform their views, to teach 
them that life had greater passions, joys, and sorrows 
than those that found expression in a civilization 
where Christianity and prejudice barred natural il- 
lusions. He wished to bring new fire to the dying 
flame. Had not Mirbeau said of him again: 

" Paul Gauguin is a very peculiar and disconcert- 
ing artist who makes no appeal to the public and 
whom the public therefore does not understand. I 
have often promised myself to speak about him. I 
don't know how it is, but one never has time for any- 
thing nowadays. And besides, I dare say I have 
shrunk from such a task, being afraid of falling short 
in my explanation of a man for whom I have the 
highest and most respectful esteem, To give a brief 
and rapid account of an art which is so complicated 
and so primitive, so clear and so obscure, so bar- 
baric and so refined as Gauguin's, is not that imprac- 


ticable that is to say, beyond my powers? To ren- 
der such a man and such a work comprehensible 
would demand an explanation too exhaustive for the 
space of a newspaper article. I believe, however, that 
Gauguin's work itself will stand out in a brilliant 
light if I first touch upon his intellectual experiments 
and describe briefly his extraordinary and adventur- 
ous life. . . . 

" Wherever Gauguin may wander he may be as- 
sured that our sympathy will accompany him." 

But apart from the kind and practical Monfreid's 
letters, which were often full of good advice, espe- 
cially as regards his consumption of cigarettes and 
alcohol, he saw little sign of sympathy from any 
other quarter. 

In his last letter Monf reid had told him that Juli- 
ette had given birth to a girl. Poor child, what would 
happen to her with such a ruffian of a father? And 
yet was she not a beautiful manifestation of the 
course of nature and the persistence of life? Look, 
for instance, here in Tahiti, how children are greeted 
with the greatest joy and shown with pride. The idea 
took possession of him, inspired him. He set to work 
upon his first large composition in the island. The 
proud mother in the foreground of a luxuriant land- 
scape with the child perched on her shoulder, and in 
the background three women paying homage: la 
or ana Maria Hail, Mary! But a little aureole 
about the child's head suggests that he has not yet 



entirely resigned himself to barbarism. He is still 
haunted by the old refrains ; he has not yet adapted 
himself wholly to the life around him. He is lonely 
and haunted by memories 5 they pass in and out of 
his hut, leaving behind an emptiness which tortures 
him as he lies watching the moonbeams as they play 
the vivo on the lattice wall. 

" Within me they are singing, far and near, the 
vivo and my heart. And I walked far towards the 
ocean, with my memories and my hopes; towards 
the wonderful ocean whose deep roar around the 
island tells of silence, whose deep roar around the is- 
land is like an impenetrable wall brooding over the 
place to which I have withdrawn in my exile, and, 
full of a feeling of youth, I stretch out my arms to 
space. Far away they are singing, both the vivo and 
my heart." 

With a feeling of youthfulness he stretches out his 
arms to space ; there he can find renewal, and he feels 
strong forces within him which will enable him to 
reach it, but not in solitude. Not alone. The yawning 
emptiness of the hut brings sleepless nights and de- 
presses him so that in the daytime he resorts to stimu- 
lants which impair his health, especially with his 
poor diet, which he can only attend to by fits and 
starts. When he goes into Papeete to buy provisions 
it invariably ends in a spree among the Europeans, 
and he returns ill and exasperated to his hut, which 
receives him with the chill of loneliness, with an in- 




jured look of desolation which does not invite repose. 
Conscience lurks in every corner, like a spider watch- 
ing for his thoughts to be caught in its web. His heart 
is racing and demands a sedative. O na tu well, 
what does it matter? And after a leaden sleep comes 
the nightmare, making one start out of bed and 
awaken to a new day. Alone. 

But one day the warning came : a violent vomiting 
of blood obliged Gauguin to seek medical attention 
in Papeete, and fortunately he applied to the only 
Frenchman on the island, de Chassagnol, the senior 
physician at the hospital, who understood his case 
and could appreciate him as a man. 

But when he returned to his hut it was as lonely 
as before and he was still alone. 

" For some time I had been in a gloomy mood and 
it coloured my work. To tell the truth, many of my 
studies were failures, but cheerfulness was what I 
lacked above all. 

" Several months had passed since I sent Titi 
away j for several months I had not heard the chatter 
of my vahine, constantly asking me the same ques- 
tions about the same things, to which I always re- 
plied with the same stories. And this silence had no 
very happy effect on me. 

" I decided to go away, to set out on a tour round 
the island, without making any fixed plan. While I 
was making parcels of things I might want on the 
tour and putting all my studies in order, my neigh- 


hour and landlord., the friendly Anani, stood watch- 
ing me uneasily. At last he made up his mind to ask 
if I was preparing to leave. I answered no, I was only 
getting ready for a few days' trip and I should soon 
be back* He did not believe me and began to weep. 
His wife came up and said she loved me. I needed no 
money to live among them 5 one day I might find 
rest for ever there and she pointed to a spot orna- 
mented with a little shrub near the hut. 

cc And I felt a longing to rest there for ever; at 
any rate no one would ever come and disturb me 

cc c You Europeans/ added AnanPs wife, c you al- 
ways promise to stay, and when at last we've grown 
fond of you, you go away! You assure us you will 
come back, but you never do! * 

a c But I can swear that I intend to come back in 
a few days. Afterwards * for I dared not lie 
c afterwards we shall see.' 

" At last I got away. 

" I left the road which runs along the beach and 
struck into a narrow path through the bush that ex- 
tends a good way up into the mountains, arriving at 
a little valley whose inhabitants lived in the old 
Maori fashion. They were calm and happy. They 
dreamed, they loved, they slept, sang, and prayed, 
and I could clearly see in my mind's eye the statues 
of their female goddesses, though there were none 
there. Statues of Hina and festivals in honour of 


the moon goddess. The image is forty feet high and 
ten feet from shoulder to shoulder, made of a single 
block of stone. On its head is a huge stone shaped 
like a cap, of reddish colour. Around it they dance 
according to the ancient rite Matamua and 
the vivo changes its tone, now bright and gay, now 
sad and veiled, as the hours go by. 

" I went on. At Taravao, the extreme point of the 
island, a gendarme lent me his horse and now I went 
rapidly along the east coast, which is little visited 
by Europeans. In Faone, a little district that you 
come to just before Itia, I heard a native call to me: 
* Hey! you man who makes men y (he knows I am a 
painter), c haere mai ta maha (come and eat with 
us), 7 the Tahitian formula of politeness. 

" I did not require pressing, so attractive and 
gentle was the smile accompanying the invitation. I 
got off my horse 5 my host took it and tied it to a 
branch, without any servile politeness, deftly and as 
a matter of course. We both entered a hut where were 
assembled men, women, and children sitting on the 
ground as they chatted and smoked. 

" c Where are you going? ' asked a handsome 
Maori woman of about forty. 

" c I'm going to Itia.' 

cc c What do you want there? ' 

a I don't know what prompted me, and perhaps 
I told her the real, the secret object of my journey, 

without knowing it. 



" c To find a wife/ I answered. 

" c There are many good-looking ones at Ida. 
Will you have one of them? ' 


" c If you like I will give you one. She is my 

" c Is she young? ' 

" c Yes.> 

"< Is she healthy? > 


" c Very well, go and fetch her.' 

" The woman went. After a quarter of an hour, 
which was spent in bringing in the Maoris' wild 
bananas, prawns, and a fish, she came back accom- 
panied by a tall girl with a little package in her hand. 
Through her gown, which was of a very transparent 
pink muslin, one could see the golden skin of her 
shoulders and arms. Two buds stood out boldly on 
her breast. I did not recognize in her charming face 
the type I had hitherto found prevalent in the island j 
her hair, too, was somewhat unusual, thick as a 
jungle and slightly crisped. In th? sunlight it was an 
orgy of colour. 

" In the course of the conversation I found out 
that she belonged to Tonga. When she had seated 
herself at my side I asked her some questions. 

" c You are not afraid of me? ' 

" c Will you live in my hut for good? 


a c You have never been ill? 3 

" That was all. My heart throbbed as the girl 
without changing a feature arranged the food that 
was offered me on a great banana-leaf before me on 
the ground. I ate with a good appetite, but I was 
preoccupied and ill at ease. This young girl, this 
child of about thirteen, captivated me and frightened 
me. What was passing in her soul? It was I so 
old compared with her who hesitated when the 
moment arrived for signing a contract so hastily con- 
ceived and concluded; perhaps, I thought, her 
mother has issued her orders, perhaps it is a bargain 
they have discussed between them. And yet I saw 
quite plainly in this great child the marks of inde- 
pendence and pride which are characteristic of her 
race. What did most to ease my mind and here it 
was impossible to be mistaken was that she had 
the demeanour, the serene expression, which in 
young people accompanies an honourable and praise- 
worthy action. But the touch of mockery about her 
mouth, which, by the way, was kind and sensitive 
and tender, told me that if there was any danger it 
threatened me, not her. 

" I will not venture to say that my heart was not 
contracted by a strange feeling of anxiety, by a sick- 
ening fear, by a real terror, as I stepped across the 
threshold of the hut. 


cc I took my horse and mounted. The girl followed 
me; her mother, a man, and two young women 
her aunts, she said also attended me. 

" We were making for Taravao, five and a half 
miles from Faone. 

" When we had covered the first mile someone 
said < Parahi teie Stop here. 5 1 dismounted and we 
entered a big and well-kept hut, rich in this world's 
goods: handsome mats laid over hay. A couple lived 
here, still young and extremely amiable. My fiancee 
sat down beside the woman and introduced her to 
me: c This is my mother. 5 After that fresh water was 
silently poured into a cup from which we all drank 
in turn, as though it were some rite in a family re- 
ligion. Whereupon she whom my fiancee had in- 
troduced as her mother said to me with moist eyes 
and a look of emotion: 

"< You are kind? > 

a I answered not without some scruples, '"after 
searching my conscience: 


" * Will you make my daughter happy? y 


" * Let her come back here in a week. If she is 
not happy, she will leave you. ? 

"A long silence. At last we went out and I 
mounted again and went on, still followed by my 
escort. On the way we met people who were ac- 


quainted with my new relations, and they saict to the 
girl, as they greeted her: 

" c Aha, so you're vahine to a Frenchman! Be 
h$ppy. Good luck to you! ' 

" There was doubt in their looks. 

" There "was one thing that puzzled me: how 
could it be that Tehura that was my wife's name 
had two mothers? So I asked the one who had 
first offered her: 

" c Why did you lie to me? ' 

cc Tehura's mother answefed: 

" c The other is also her mother, her foster- 
mother, the one who looks after her,' 

" I sat in the saddle plunged in reverie, and the 
horse, feeling no firm hand on the reins, walked un- 
steadily, stumbling over the big stones. 

" At Taravao I returned the horse to the gen- 
darme. The gendarme's wife, a Frenchwoman, said 

to me, not with any spiteful intention, but tactlessly: 
c ,So I see you're taking a prostitute with you? ' 

" And her contemptuous eyes stripped the girl, 
who replied with proud indifference to this offensive 
scrutiny. For a moment I watched the symbolical 
sight presented by these two women: decay and 
fresh flowering, the law and trust, the artificial and 
the natural, and upon this she blew the breath of 
lying and spite. At the same time it was the opposi- 
tion of two races, and I was ashamed of mine. It 


seemed to me that it soiled the beautiful sky with a 
cloud of dirty smoke, and I turned my eyes away 
quickly to let them dwell on and be gladdened by the 
glory of that living gold which I loved already. 

" The parting with her family took place at 
Taravao in the house of the Chinaman who sells 
everything human beings as well as animals. 

" We my fiancee and I took the public 
coach, which put us down fifteen miles farther on, 
at my home in Matarea. 

<c My wife was not very talkative rather mel- 
ancholy and inclined to scoff. We scrutinized each 
other all the time, but I was soon vanquished in this 
duel and she remained impenetrable to me. It was of 
little use my determining to keep control over my- 
self so as not to interfere with my clearness of vision 5 
it was not long before my feelings made an end of 
my earnest resolutions, and in a short time I was an 
open book to Tehura, 

" Thus at the expense of myself and my own 
person, so to speak I gained experience of the 
deep abyss that separates an Oceanic soul from a 
Latin, and particularly a French soul. The Maori 
soul does not surrender itself at once, much patience 
and study are required before one can gain possession 
of it. At first it evades and confuses one in a thou- 
sand ways, enveloping itself in laughter and caprice > 
and, while one allows oneself to be captivated by this 
outward appearance, as though it were the mani- 


festation of her true inwardness without a thought of 
playing a part, she examines one with calm assurance 
under cover of her laughing nonchalance, her child- 
like thoughtlessness. 

" A week went by during which I was filled with 
a childishness which was quite foreign to myself, I 
loved Tehura and told her so, which made her smile ; 
she knew it very well! In return she seemed to love 
me but never said so. But now and then at night 
Tehura's skin shed a golden radiance. 

" On the eighth day to me it seemed as if we 
had just entered the hut together for the first time 
Tehura asked my leave to go and visit her mother 
at Faone: it was a promise. I acceded sorrowfully, 
tied up some piastres in her shawl so that she might 
pay for her journey and buy rum for her father, and 
accompanied her to the coach. 

<c To me it was like a farewell. Would she come 
back? The loneliness of my hut tortured me. I could 
not concentrate my thought on a single piece of work. 

" Some days went by, then she came back." 

From this time on, Gauguin passed some happy 
months in full work. He lived as a Maori, dressed 
as one, with the pareo about his loins, otherwise 
naked. His artistic dream was now completely real- 
ized and every day he penetrated more deeply into 
its essence. He lived in the present, with a happy 
consciousness of being free to follow out his artistic 
idea; and every whim, every temperamental mani- 



festation of the child Tehura inspired him while at 
the same time it appealed to his masculine instinct. 
All the changing moods o this woman, whose at- 
traction for him was purely sensual, were in accord 
with nature 5 she was one with nature, a part of it. 

She had all the caprice and mystery of nature j she 
was light and darkness, day and night. She had the 
bright laughter of the daytime., and its tears j she had 
the rapturous silence of the night, and its demonic 

" One day I was obliged to go to Papeete. I had 
promised to be back the same evening, but the car- 
riage I took only brought me half-way, so I had to 
walk the rest and it was one o'clock at night when I 
reached home. 

a We happened to be short of oil; I was just go- 
ing to get in a fresh supply. 

" When I opened the door the lamp was extin- 
guished, the room was in darkness. I felt a sudden 
fear and suspicion: the bird had flown. I hurriedly 
struck a match, and then I saw. Motionless, 
naked, lying at full length on her stomach, Tehura 
stared at me with terror-stricken eyes and seemed 
not to recognize me. I, too, stood still for a few mo- 
ments in strange uncertainty. Tehura's terror in- 
fected me, it was as though a phosphorescent light 
radiated from her fixed, staring eyes* I had never 
seen her so beautiful, never had her beauty appeared 
so impressive. And in this semi-darkness, which un- 


doubtedly was peopled with dangerous apparitions, 
with obscure imaginations, I was afraid of making 
any movement that might change the child's terror 
into paroxysm. Could I tell what she took me for 
at that moment? With my agitated face might I not 
be one of the demons or spectres, the Tupapaus, with 
which the legends of her race fill sleepless nights? 
Did I know what she really was? So violent was the 
feeling that had seized her, under the physical and 
mental sway of her superstition, that it converted 
her into a being utterly strange to me, utterly differ- 
ent from all I had seen before. 

" At last she came to herself and I did my utmost 
to calm her and restore her confidence. She listened 
to me, sulkily, and said in a voice shaken by sobs: 

" c Don't ever leave me alone again without a 
light. 5 " 

So absorbed was Gauguin in his attempt to pene- 
trate the primitive soul and thoughts of the Maori 
that for a time he forgot his own nature j like the 
natives he lived in the present and in his work and 
was content. But the past, which he thought he had 
left behind, overtook him, and at the same time the 
future and its ambitious aims began to call upon him* 

His financial position was becoming difficult, and 
this brought out the European} he was reminded of 
his requirements and of his dependence on his home- 
land, and learned by painful experience that his 
physique was not equal to the primitive life and that 


he could not adopt the Maoris 5 idea of O na tu y 
though he longed to be able to say like them: a It 
doesn't concern me, nature will look after it." A 
longing which was never satisfied and never could 
be. A tragic and dramatic longing, which intensified 
his sense of the beauty of his dream and invested it 
with majesty and greatness. A bitter longing, which 
set up a struggle within him so that he could never 
rest from the effort to penetrate the mystery which 
was himself. And he attacked it courageously, trying 
always to take the consequences of his actions j he 
even considered that he always acted logically and 
after due consideration, never rashly or thought- 
lessly. But he was constantly landed in the financial 
quagmire, like the European he was; and his future 
prospects alone could rescue him from it, 

In spite of his constantly increasing financial diffi- 
culties he worked like a madman, and in a way this 
brought him a rest from his anxieties, since here he 
was dealing with that side of his adventure which 
was in his own control and which he could make 
tangible, with a view to the future. And here he felt 
on surer ground than ever before; he was now fully 
convinced that he had reached his goal. He had only 
to hold out another year and he would be able to con- 
vince them at home. All he asked for was a little 
encouragement and a little support, particularly 
from his family, who were always included in his 
future plans. 


Although Mette's letters had grown calmer and 
nore accommodating, they were not altogether of a 
mature to cheer him. She gave him to understand far 
too often that his view of the situation was different 
from hers; that it was the view of an artist. 

" You are right; I am an artist. There is nothing 
stupid about you. I am a great artist and I know it. 
It is because I know it that I have borne so much 
suffering in order to keep on my course; otherwise I 
should consider myself a rascal. Which, by the way, 
I am in the eyes of many people. Well, what does it 
matter! What vexes me most is not so much my 
poverty as the hindrances it puts in the way of my 
art, which I cannot get to come right, as I should 
be able if my arms were not tied by poverty. 

" You tell me I am wrong to live so far away from 
the artistic centre. No, I am right; I have known 
for a long time what I am doing and why I am do- 
ing it. My artistic centre is in my brain and nowhere 
else. I am strong because I have never allowed my- 
self to be deflected by others and all I do comes from 
within myself. Beethoven was deaf and blind, he was 
completely isolated, and thus his works are the ex- 
pression of the artist living on a planet of his own. 
Look what has happened to Pissarro; as a result of 
always trying to be ahead of and abreast of every- 
thing he has lost every scrap of personality and his 
whole work lacks unity; it just follows the move- 
ment of the day, from Courbet and Millet to the little 

-i8 5 - 


fellows who work like chemists with an accumula- 
tion of little dots. No, I have an aim and I keep it 
constantly before me. I am the only logical one, and 
for that reason I shall find very few who will follow 
me for long. 

cc Poor SchufFenecker, he reproaches me with be- 
ing entirely under the sway of my inclinations. But 
if I did not act thus, how could I bear even for a 
year this struggle to the death that I have under- 
taken? My acts, my painting, etc., are always abused 
at the moment, and in the end I am acknowledged 
to be right. And then it's the same over again. I be- 
lieve I am doing my duty, and strengthened by this 
I refuse to accept any advice, any reproach. The con- 
ditions in which I work are unfavourable and one 
has to be a colossus to do what I am doing in these 
conditions. I wish to dwell on this subject, and if I 
have spoken of it at such length it is because I know 
that at the bottom of your heart you are interested in 
these questions; you have taken a spite against them 
because they have brought worry and work on you 
and because people have given you flattering ac- 
counts of other callings. If some of them are advan- 
tageous, there are plenty which don't bear looking 
at, in business, etc., and no way out. Whereas art, 
after all, has its great day. That's not much, I know; 
but confess that in your heart you are flattered at 
being the wife of a man who is somebody. 

" I have worries enough here and if I were not 


sure it was necessary for my art I should stay here no 

a The want of food is destroying my digestion and 
I am growing thinner day by day. But I must con- 
tinue the struggle, without a break. You have no 
trust in the future, but I have. Because I will have 
it 5 otherwise I should have put a match to the 
powder-barrel long; ago. To hope is to live. I must 
live in order to do my duty to the full, and I can only 
do it by adding strength to my illusions, bringing 
hope into my dreams. Day by day as I eat my dry 
bread, washed down with a glass of water, I can 
gradually persuade myself that it is a beefsteak. 

" Do not take it amiss if I stick to my idea of stay- 
ing here another year. I am hard at work 5 I know 
the soil now, the scent of it j and the Tahitians, whom 
I draw enigmatically, are none the less Maoris and 
not Orientals from the Batignolles. It has taken me 
nearly a year to understand them, and now that I 
have got there (my foot in the stirrup), I am to give 
it up. Enough to drive one mad. 

" I am pretty well satisfied with my most recent 
works and feel that I am beginning to get hold of 
the Oceanic character. I can assure you that what 
I have done has not been done by anyone else and that 
it is unknown in France." 

Both in his letters to his wife and in those to his 
friend Monf reid, Gauguin exaggerated the frugality 
of his diet considerably. It gave him a certain pleas- 


ure thus to emphasize the contrast between his for- 
mer and his present habits, for to tell the truth the 
Maoris' diet appealed more to his eye than to his 
palate ; and at the same time it gave him an oppor- 
tunity of pointing out how ridiculous his position 
was, compared with what it ought to be. He was not 
calling for their pity, but for their reflection. He 
wanted to make them understand that modesty was 
not to be expected of him and that his choice of a 
primitive life did not mean that he had reduced his 
claims. He had adopted this life for the sake of his art 
and because he despised the Europeans' fear of primi- 
tive instincts. But if they thought the primitive had 
anything to do with the frugal, they were entirely 
mistaken. On the contrary, in the primitive were 
latent the great forces which produce the surplus, 
the forces which make greater demands on experi- 
ence than can be satisfied by ordinary humdrum life. 
He was an artist; that is, a person who had no need 
to obey other laws than those dictated by his natural 
instincts, laws which he could justify by his own 

Gauguin knew very well that he made great de- 
mands on the understanding of others; but on the 
other hand they would have to acknowledge one day 
that he made great demands on himself, and that he 
had paid dearly for satisfying them. They must not 
therefore be allowed to harbour the idea that Tahiti 
as he represented it was a paradise for himself: and 


those people in particular who pottered about in 
their commonplace comfort, whose life was filled 
with prosaic needs, must be taught to see how pain- 
ful it was to have to isolate oneself entirely from their 
world, which had also been his, in order to witness 
the fulfilment of his dream, like a fairy-tale unfold- 
ing itself before his very eyes. A fairy-tale of which 
he was himself only a spectator, or at the best a robber 
who plundered its fertility. 

When Michelangelo strove to create physical 
beauty in his works it was perhaps due in great meas- 
ure to his being himself ugly and deformed. If he, 
Gauguin, constantly aimed at the simple and primi- 
tive, it was possibly owing to his being himself 
so complicated and many-sided. His longing gave 
primitive beauty a dramatic and majestic bearing, 
and his art was a continual struggle to penetrate the 
soul of this beauty and the mystery it preserved even 
in surrender. 

" I am doing a nude of a young girl. In this pose 
it would only require a touch to make her indecent. 
And yet I want her like this, the lines and the move- 
ment interest me. So I am putting a dash of terror 
into the head. There must be a pretext for this terror, 
or it must be explained, and that in accordance with 
the Maoris' character. This people has traditionally 
a very great fear of the spirits of the dead. Any of our 
girls would be afraid of being surprised in this posi- 
tion. (Nothing of the sort among the women here.) 



I have to explain this terror with the minimum of 
literary aids, such as used to be employed. So this is 
what I do. A general effect of harmony, dark, 
mournful, and alarming, suggesting the toll of a 
funeral bell. Violet, dark blue, and orange yellow. 
I paint the linen a greenish yellow, first because this 
savage's linen is different from ours; secondly be- 
cause it suggests artificial light (a Kanaka woman 
never goes to bed in the dark), but I won't have a 
lamplight effect (it's too common); thirdly, this 
yellow joining together the orange yellow and the 
blue completes the musical chord. In the background 
are some flowers, but they ought not to have a look 
of reality, being imaginary. I am making them look 
like sparks of fire. To the mind of the Kanaka the 
phosphorescent lights at night are the spirits of the 
dead; they believe in them and are afraid of them. 
And to finish the picture I put in the ghost, very 
simply, just an ordinary little woman; because the 
girl, knowing nothing of the ghosts of the French 
stage, is only able to connect the spirit of the dead 
with the dead person herself; that is to say, some per- 
son known to her. 

" So here you have a little text which you can 
learn, to answer the critics when they bombard you 
with their spiteful questions." 

As far as his art was concerned, Gauguin found in- 
spiration enough in the chances of adventure, but his 
ambition had other aims and grew with every success 




he achieved in his work. Nor could he rest satisfied 
even in this; he had plans in his head of removing 
to the Marquesas Islands. From the yarns of a blus- 
tering sea captain he had heard that as regards beauty 
and disposition the women of Tahiti were only a 
dying flame compared with those of the Marquesas. 
He was fascinated by the idea of visiting those is- 
lands, but ambition gained the day and he decided to 
finish off his work in Tahiti and then sail for home. 
He would show everybody who thought he was 
safely disposed of in the ends of the earth that he had 
no intention of turning hermit or of forgetting that 
he had slipped out of their memory. He had assured 
them that he was a great artist, and Charles Morice, 
Emile Bernard, Armand Seguin in short, all the 
mediocrities seemed to believe it. He would show 
them that he was still alive and was so great an artist 
that he had no need of their encouragement or of 
their way of appropriating his art for the benefit of 
a common idea; and above all it should be brought 
home to Mette at last that he was a great artist. 

a I am longing to see you all again and to take a 
little rest. But we must be reasonable. A voyage like 
this is no light matter, no pleasure trip. I must get 
all I can out of it, and it is to be the end of all my 
roving. Be patient a little while longer; it will be 
for the good of you all." 

He had some qualms of conscience with regard 
to his only faithful friend, Daniel, whom he still had 


to burden with all his difficulties. But what was 
he to do? none of the others answered him, not 
even those who actually owed him money. 

Whenever, at intervals of many weeks, he saw the 
smoke of the mail-boat rising behind Moorea, his 
heart palpitated with excitement and impatience. 
Would all the chances he had been waiting for turn 
up? If not, it meant more letters, more urgent in- 
sistence, and then another long wait for a reply. Only 
very rarely were the replies satisfactory and hardly 
ever did they contain good news. But at the end of 
1 892 he had a letter from Mette informing him that 
the Committee of the Free Exhibition in Copen- 
hagen, which had just been formed as a protest 
against the official exhibition, wished him to be 
represented when they opened in the following 
February, together with works by van Gogh. Here 
was a chance j at any rate it was an encouragement 
which he would never have looked for from that 
quarter. Now more than ever it was a case of making 
a great effort to get back. But it could not be done 
without money, so Daniel must be pressed into the 
service; and prayers were no longer of any use, it 
had come to threats, the threat that he would soon 
be back. He could have wished that his friend was 
less cautious and unbiased, more pushing, that he 
would lay more stress on Gauguin's indignation at 
the wrongs he had to suffer. Apparently Daniel was 


not even convinced of his being obviously in the 
right. So it was no use his treating the matter good- 
naturedly, if he wanted to hurry things on. The peo- 
ple at home must be given the idea that he was sit- 
ting on a volcano, while the beautiful fairyland was 
spread out at his feet. And in fact that was how he 
really felt, so it was not difficult to find words for it 
in his letters. 

cc My dear Daniel, 

" I have just received 700 francs and they will 
give me some butter for my spinach. If I had had 
them a month or two ago I should have been off to 
the Marquesas to finish my work, and the most in- 
teresting part of it. But I am tired, and the boat for 
the Marquesas does not leave for a month and a half. 
Besides, I am expecting by next mail what will cover 
my voyage home, etc. All these things keep me hang- 
ing about and prevent my making a decision. I have 
wiped out the Marquesas and shall turn up one of 
these days in Paris. I wrote to Serusier several months 
ago, sending him a reply to be forwarded to N . I 
have heard nothing. Has Serusier received my letter? 

" My God, how difficult it is to do business by 
correspondence! For two years I haven't been able 
to clear up this affair of N . I promise you that 
in a fortnight after my arrival I shall have got to the 
bottom of it. 


cc What a queer fellow that Z is! He could not 
take the opportunity of writing me a line himself 
when he was sending me money. 

"What an age this is of human stupidity and 
vanity! This little being is furious at seeing me get 
ahead of him in painting and thinks it's my fault 
that he's behindhand. Yet he has no cause to com- 
plain of his luck. Born to be a humble workman or 
concierge., or a small shopkeeper, he has managed 
without an effort (it has all come from outside) to 
make himself a gentleman and an owner of house 

" As a painter he had a temperament below zero. 
After having been an admirer of Baudry and his 
like he has gone about from contrariness or business 
instinct (the Salon would not accept him). Well 
then, as you know, he preached the holy war, mean- 
ing to follow me and go beyond me; but I'm not 
so easy to follow with my seven-league boots, and 
he has stopped on the way, puffing and blowing. If 
he would even obey; but he insists on working after 
his own head and tries to be original in spite of all. 
Hence all the dissensions that you know about. He 
reproaches me with being self-willed and he fears 
for his liberty, etc. A contradiction: he wants to walk 
on his own feet and reproaches me for not having 
pushed him along. All this is sad, and above all 

" You are having troubles of your own, you are 


going through the period o failure. Sometimes that's 
an excellent thing. At this distance I can't form any 
opinion or offer any advice. I will have a look at it 
on my return. Don't take it too much to heart and 
keep on working. 

a Thanks for the colours. I have some left and 
shall not want any more. For the last two months 
I have done no actual work 5 I content myself with 
observing, reflecting, arxd making notes. My output 
in a stay of two years, some months of which were 
lost, will be 66 canvases, more or less good and 
some ultra-savage pieces of sculpture. That's enough 
for one man 

" I believe that at the moment I have a better 
chance of success in Denmark than in France ; un- 
fortunately it is a very small country and the re- 
sources are very limited. That vein will soon be 
worked out 

" Moreover today I seem to have quite a follow- 
ing of young men, and they are getting on, I am 
told; as they are younger and hold more trumps, and 
are cleverer than I, perhaps I shall be distanced. For 
catching up with them I count on this new Tahitian 
stage; that will be a change after my Breton studies 
and it will take them some time yet to follow me 
along this road. 

" We shall see! Unless I give up painting, which 
is very likely, as I told you in my last letter. 

" You know that infirmity of mine, doing with- 



out sleep j many of my children have been the same; 
impossible to get them to sleep at night. 

" My wife writes that Emile, my eldest son, meas- 
ures 6 feet 5 at the age of eighteen and a half; that's 
promising. So they'll be able to call him the Great 

As soon as Gauguin had made up his mind to re- 
turn home the moment he had an opportunity of 
doing so, he lived in two worlds; and although he 
was honest with himself, he had a distinct feeling 
that he was not quite honest with the others and that 
he was playing a double part. This stirred his con- 
science and led to an inner conflict, but at the same 
time it touched strings of pity within him. He 
watched attentively each change of expression in 
the young woman at his side. Tehura had grown 
more silent, more thoughtful, her natural dignity 
had acquired a touch of pride. She showed an in- 
terest in the photographs of his children, which were 
nailed up on a plank in the wall, and she was espe- 
cially attracted by his eldest son, a fine big boy with 
bold, frank features. Emil! She too was going to 
have a son by her tane^ and he too would be big and 
strong. He must be called Emil. She asked him. A 
strange feeling came over Gauguin; he granted her 
request; but he was to be called fimile with an e y 
like the child in Jean Jacques Rousseau. This eldest 
son of his new existence, of his fairyland, could be 


safely left behind. Nature would take care of him. 

" I had to go back to France. Urgent family duties 
called for my return. 

a Farewell, hospitable country, lovely country, 
the home of freedom and beauty! I leave you two 
years older, but twenty years younger, more of a 
barbarian than when I came and yet richer in knowl- 
edge. Yes, the savages have taught me much, me, 
the son of an old civilization 5 much have these igno- 
rant ones taught me of the art of living and the art 
of being happy. 

" As I left the quay, at the moment of sailing, I 
saw Tehura for the last time. She was sitting on 
the stone quay with her legs hanging over the side, 
caressing the salt water with her broad and powerful 
feet. Tired, still distressed, but calm. The flower 
she had worn behind her ear had fallen into her lap 

" Here and there were others like her, watching 
wearily and vacantly the thick smoke of the vessel 
that carried us away, all of us their lovers of a 
day. And through our glasses we thought we could 
still read upon their lips this old Maori strophe: 

" c Hasten, light breezes from the south and east 
That fondly play above my head; 
Hasten together to the other isle. 
There you will find him who deserted me, 
Taking his ease beneath his favourite tree. 
Tell him that you have seen my tears.' " 


THE voyage from Tahiti was long and wearisome. 
First a terribly cold spell at Sydney. After that a 
delay of nearly a month at Noumea expensive 
and mortally tedious for Gauguin, whose only 
thought was of getting back to France and who had 
to practise the most severe economy. The boat he was 
to transfer to carried troops whose time had expired, 
so he had to change from third class to second 
fresh expense. And on entering the Red Sea it was 
so hot that sleep and waking were merged in one 
nightmare of apathetic fancies, in which one pur- 
sues but never reaches one's aim, and time flies with- 
out one's being able to budge from the spot; one goes 
backwards like a shadow through one's whole ex- 

A breeze that brushed the skin like a physical con- 
tact started Gauguin out of this unresting somnam- 
bulism. Awake and impatient he walked the deck, 
waiting. In a few days the voyage would be over, 


he would be able to leave the narrow deck-plank that 
he had paced, backwards and forwards, times with- 
out number, and thenceforth his road would lead in 
one direction only. 

" My dear Mette y 

cc Here I am at last, arrived at Marseilles safe and 
well, and I am telegraphing to Daniel to send me if 
possible enough to pay my railway and hotel ex- 
penses. What money I had has all gone on the voy- 
age. As soon as you get this letter write me at length 
hons) everything is going at home (it will be five 
months since I had news of you) 5 tell me at the 
same time what state our finances are in, so that I 
can make my calculations. Of course all this work 
that I have brought back cannot be turned into 
money in a few days and I have some absolutely nec- 
essary expenses on arrival. I have had no news of the 
canvases I sent you (beyond that they duly arrived). 
But what sort of an impression did they make at the 
Exhibition in Denmark? 

" You must give me a full account of everything 
so that I may arrange my business in Paris. 

" The voyage home was terribly exhausting: the 
Red Sea in particular was excessively hot and we 
were obliged to throw three dead passengers over- 
board, stifled by the heat. 

" I am glad to say I am pretty well: for the last 
six months I have gained a good deal in strength and 



put on weight. You will be able to embrace a husband 
who is more than skin and bones and not too worn 

" I am writing this on board to save time and shall 
post my letter as soon as I land. 

" I am full of misgivings about my arrival. Is 
Daniel in Paris just now and can he send me the 
money? (I have just enough in my pocket to send 
the telegram and take a cab to bring my baggage to 
a hotel where I shall wait for the cash. 

" I have some weight of baggage, pictures and 
sculpture, which is going to cost a lot of money! 

" Good-bye for the present write at once 
" I embrace you with all my heart. 


When Gauguin, after an absence of nearly two 
years and a half, stood once more on his native soil 
he felt content. All the bitterness he had accumu- 
lated was nothing compared with the expectations 
he had of the work he had executed in those years. 
He had been able to work in peace, more or less, and 
in such conditions as had made his art quite clear to 
him. Even if he had only four francs in his pocket, 
he now felt more secure, with firm ground under his 
feet. All he had to do now was to raise the necessary 
money for getting to Paris. Two telegrams were sent 
off quite unnecessarily. The attentive Daniel had 


seen to it that there was money waiting for him at 
the post office. 

On, then, to Paris as quickly as possible. But Paris 
was empty. Everyone was away, so Gauguin had to 
arm himself with patience, a thing which was not 
easy for him. One day he looked in on Durand-Ruel, 
who received him with great amiability and prom- 
ised to come up and look at his pictures and possibly 
to arrange an exhibition. 

He had to find a studio and get his pictures ready 
for showing. At No. 8 rue de la Grande Chaumiere 
there was a good studio to let, and at the dairy just 
opposite he was able to borrow enough to pay the de- 
posit. The owner of this dairy, Madame Caron, was 
no ordinary woman and knew Gauguin of old. Be- 
sides her milk business she managed a little eating- 
house, which was frequented by the pupils of the 
Academie Colarossi, and used to buy, according to 
her means, some pictures of the artists who interested 
her; nor was she afraid of helping them in an emer- 

But as Gauguin was in the midst of his prepara- 
tions for receiving his picture dealer he received in- 
formation that his uncle Isidore of Orleans had died 
and that in all probability a little legacy would come 
his way. 

Though it was not very much thirteen thou- 
sand francs it could not have come at a more con- 



venient moment. When one has business with a pic- 
ture dealer it is important not to be forced to sell 
one's skin too cheaply. This paltry sum was nothing 
compared with the capital vested in the pictures he 
had in store, but it came in very handy to start with 
and secure the future, and for that it was to be em- 
ployed. The first and most important thing was to set 
himself up in a studio where he could receive his 
friends and people of influence. Unfortunately he 
could not get all the money paid out at once al- 
ways these confounded formalities which prevented 
one from carrying out one's plans properly. But at 
any rate he found at No. 6 rue Vercingetorix a fairly 
large studio which was rather out of the common. It 
was approached through a big gateway in a high wall 
facing the street j this led to a large courtyard with 
a big tree, and then you came to a low building with 
two studios on the ground floor and three on the first. 
Access to the first floor was by an outside staircase 
with a balcony. From the balcony you entered first 
a little anteroom with an alcove for a bed on one 
side; from this a glass door led to the studio, which 
Gauguin lost no time in decorating with a picture in 
Maori style: Te Faruru Maison du Jouir. The 
anterior part of the studio was kept in semi-darkness, 
as a sharp contrast to the strong light from a side 
window high up in the other half. Gauguin painted 
the windows chrome yellow. The furniture consisted 



of a divan with oriental rugs and a quantity of weap- 
ons from the South Sea Islands, all procured in Paris, 
and the walls were covered with his paintings. A 
piano and a big photographic camera were the only 
things to remind one of Paris or Europe. For do- 
mestic animals, a monkey and a parrot. And for at- 
tendant and mistress, a handsome Javanese named 
Annah, a well-known model from the studios of 

Certainly this setting was not altogether genuine, 
but at any rate it supplied a sort of framework to his 
art, giving it a suggestion of reality without which 
it might have been interpreted symbolically. 

Here Gauguin received visitors at all hours, one 
may say. His door stood open and he wished it so 5 he 
was no grudging host. And in the course of the au- 
tumn he had many visitors, some who came out of 
curiosity, but many more who were interested both 
in Gauguin's personality and in his art. Even if they 
did not understand it fully, it gave them a feel- 
ing that here new ideas and new forces were be- 
ing brought to maturity. Everywhere in Europe the 
nineties were a period of conflict and of reaction 
against the realism and rationalism of the preceding 
decades. The movement of the eighties had at last 
secured the upper hand over formal classicism and a 
long-deceased romanticism, the stench of whose 
corpse could no longer be disguised by the incense of 



potpourri jars. But so dazzling was the reaction of 
the eighties in its development, so strict were its ar- 
tistic exigencies., and so marked was its lucidity that 
the younger generation turned against it, finding that 
it did not give them scope for the free play of their 
sentiments and emotions. While the eighties were 
marked by a cleaning up and the definite conclusion 
of a whole century of somewhat confused artistic de- 
velopment, the nineties were distinguished by an ex- 
perimenting and a new orientation towards some- 
thing new, based on legends and myths from distant 
ages and from foreign lands. 

Although this was quite alien to Gauguin's own 
way of thinking since he only acknowledged the 
fantasy that was within himself he had no ob- 
jection to trying to explain it to others, being con- 
vinced that, when once they had understood it^ the 
clear and simple aims of his own art would also be in- 
telligible to them. 

They were mostly poets who came to see him; the 
majority of the painters who had formerly cham- 
pioned his cause now deserted him, seeing him to be 
useless as an ally or a leader. In fact, some of them, 
like Emile Bernard and Schuffenecker, actually at- 
tacked him; the former from morbid vanity in order 
to assert his own personality, the latter from frantic 
despair at having none to assert. 

Among painters of note Degas was the only one 
to perceive Gauguin's great talent. But he never left 


his own den or approached others except as an ob- 

Gauguin had thus made every preparation for 
striking the great and final blow for his art when his 
exhibition opened at Durand-RuePs in November. 
A handsomely got-up catalogue with a preface by 
Charles Morice told of forty-four pictures and two 
pieces of wood-carving, most of them from Tahiti, 
with titles in the native language. Everything had 
been done to arouse interest. But the interest was not 
there. The attitude of the best critics, though appre- 
ciative, was one of suspended judgment, while the 
public seemed completely bewildered. That section 
of it which had at last arrived at a comprehension of 
such modern artists as Manet and Renoir, Monet 
and to some extent Pissarro, found in Gauguin's pic- 
tures a foreign and exotic element which was directly 
contrary to the homelike and pronouncedly French 
note that prevailed in the art they had newly dis- 
covered. Even Durand-Ruel, who had undertaken 
the exhibition on the strength of Degas's opinion, 
having implicit confidence in his artistic judgment, 
felt somewhat shaken. In any case he found that 
Gauguin had overrated his works and was asking 
absurd prices for them. And this annoyed Gauguin. 
He was not going to be classed with the common 
herd, he meant to sit among the great. 

His mother's fatal " All or nothing " reappeared 
in the son, and his relations with Durand-Ruel grew 



worse and worse, till the picture dealer swore an oath 
that Gauguin's works should never again be seen 
upon his walls. 

Could these people understand nothing? Was his 
art too simple for these too refined and witty Pari- 

" Since my Tahitian art has been regarded as in- 
comprehensible, I will try to explain it. My intention 
was to give the idea of a superabundantly rich and 
wild nature, a tropical sunshine which sets fire to all 
around j with this in view I had to provide my fig- 
ures with a harmonious setting. 

" This is a life in the open air, but at the same time 
an intimate life. In the thickets, in the shady streams, 
the women whisper in a vast palace decorated by 
Nature herself with all the wealth of Tahiti. 

" Hence these fabulous colours, this flaming but 
filtered and silent atmosphere. 

" But all this doesn't exist! 

a Yes, it does; as the equivalent of the greatness, 
the depth, and the mystery of Tahiti^ when you have 
to express it on a canvas a yard square. 

" The Tahitian Eve is very subtle and very shrewd 
in her naivete. 

cc I cannot expound the elusive riddle that hides 
in the depths of her child's eyes. 

" It is not little Pierre Loti's pretty Rarahou, 
listening to a romance of Pierre Loti played on the 
guitar and pretty like herself. It is Eve after the Fall, 


still able to go naked and unashamed and retaining 
all her animal beauty of the first day. Motherhood 
will have no power to disfigure it, for the loins are 
as strong as before. 

a The feet of a quadruped, I dare say, 

a As in Eve, the body is still animal. But the head 
has developed, thought has induced subtlety, love 
has imprinted that ironical smile on her lips and quite 
naively she searches her memory for the c Why? * of 
today. She turns on you a baffling look. 

" This is intangible, I am told. Very well; I ac- 
cept that." 

It was a great encouragement that Degas quite 
unreservedly showed his admiration for his younger 
colleague. And he not only admired his art but val- 
ued the strength of character Gauguin had shown 
in pursuing his aim without turning aside or trying 
to ingratiate himself in any quarter. 

" Degas despises theories about art and is never 
preoccupied with technique. 

" At my last exhibition at Durand-RueFs, 
(Euvres de Tahiti y '91, '92, there were two well- 
meaning young men who could make nothing of my 
painting. As respectful friends of Degas they asked 
him for enlightenment. 

" With his kindly smilg, so paternal and yet so 
young, he repeated to them the fable of the dog and 
the wolf. 

" Gauguin, you see, is the wolf." 



And within a certain circle of young writers his 
art attracted a good deal of attention, so' that the 
studio of the rue Vercingetorix soon became much 
frequented and Gauguin's evening gatherings were 
much discussed among those interested in art, not 
infrequently in rather too fantastic terms. 

One of the most habitual guests was Charles 
Morice, whose forgetfulness during Gauguin's ab- 
sence abroad was quickly forgiven. On meeting a 
man face to face Gauguin's distrust very soon gave 
way to his need of confidence and a friendly feeling. 
The few direct clashes that had occurred in his life 
had taught him to know and to fear more than any- 
thing else his violent and ungovernable temper. 

a I prefer to have too much confidence, and to be 
deceived as a result, rather than to be always dis- 
trustful. In the first case I suffer at the moment of 
deception; in the second I suffer continually." 

As literary editor of Le Mercure de France, an 
organ of modern ideas, and as a sort of leader of the 
Symbolist movement Morice regarded Gauguin as 
a discovery of his own who was to be brought to the 
front, rather than as one for whom he had friendly 
feelings. Morice was a typical representative of the 
mentality of the nineties: uncertain and tentative, 
swayed by feeling and sentiment in his artistic form 
and extremely vulnerable to any sober demand for a 
logical content to the emotional mysticism in which 
he loved to enshroud himself. Gauguin always tried 


to give a clear impress of reality to his accounts of 
the South Sea Islands and the life of the Maoris. 
When he talked about them he did so in a simple 
and lucid way, in short and terse sentences, which 
Morice appropriated and worked up into fantastic 
and picturesque descriptions in florid and high-flown 
language. So enraptured was he with his own inspira- 
tion that he proposed to Gauguin that they should 
collaborate on a book on Tahiti: Noa-Noa cc O 
fragrant land." It was to point the way to the art of 
the future, to a new and elusive goal which was the 
spiritual aspiration of all. 

" A painter's memory, confirmed by plastic evi- 
dence and the simplest of narratives. A poet's fancy 
a poet who dreams among the painter's works 
while listening to his tale, dreams of the landscapes 
and faces that inspired the painter and from these 
dreams as, little by little, they take shape, creates 
another work of art. 

" The memory and the fancy of a painter and a 
poet have created this; two wills have given it unity 
and harmony, both possessed by the same subject and 
by the same profound belief that from the beginning 
art has been one and indivisible, and that the future 
of any branch of art must lie in a return through 
the magic convolutions of what arabesques? to 
the triumphant cohesion which will again pro- 
duce the miracle of the glory of all gardens assembled 
in one bouquet. An ineffable aim and yet a sure 



one, of which this book gives but a hint; and yet per- 
haps its prayer may reveal this aim to the soul of the 
believer, by pointing with two clasped hands the way 
to paradise." 

Obscure but flattering words which for Gauguin 
threw a ray of light into the darkness which hindered 
the comprehension of his art, but which at the same 
time gave some indication of the way by which there 
was a possibility of getting on terms with people. The 
important thing was that he should write as much 
of the book as possible himself, and he threw him- 
self into the task with zeal. 

The exhibition at Durand-Ruel's had certainly 
not answered all expectations, but on the other hand 
it had not passed unnoticed, and on the whole the 
critics had been rather favourable than otherwise. 
And the visits Gauguin had received gave him many 
proofs that in certain quarters his art had even 
aroused very great interest. 

All he had to do now was to keep this interest 
warm and to exercise a little patience. 

" My dear Mette y 

" For some time past I have been suffering from 
rheumatism, from the right shoulder right down to 
the hand, and I confess I am rather disheartened at 
the state of things. 

a As a matter of fact my exhibition did not turn 
out as one had a right to expect, but we must look 



things in the face. I had fixed very high prices 2 
to 3,000 francs on an average. At Durand-RuePs I 
could scarcely do otherwise, considering Pissarro, 
Manet, etc. But there were many bids as high as 
1,500 francs. What is one to say? The only thing to 
do is to .wait, and broadly speaking I was right, for a 
price of 1,000 francs doesn't seem overwhelming in 
the present state of the market. 

" Don't let us think about it. The important thing 
is that my exhibition was a very great artistic success j 
indeed, it aroused fury and jealousy. The press has 
treated me as it never treated anyone before; that is 
to say, with elaborate caution and commendation. 
At the moment, in the eyes of many people, I am the 
greatest modern painter. 

" Thanks for your proposal that I should come to 
Denmark, but I am tied here for the whole winter 
by a great deal of work. Many people to receive 
visitors who want to look at my pictures buyers, 
I hope. A book about my travels, which gives me a 
lot of work. 

a What kills me is this damned struggle for 
money. The notary is never tired of dunning me, 
and I am always going to pay back tomorrow the 
trifling sum I borrowed and promised to repay at the 
end of October. This paralyses my arm and I can't 
buy many necessary things. Enough of that! 

" Listen to what I propose, and I believe it is the 
most sensible of all suggestions. Would it not be pos- 



sible to rent a fisherman's cottage on the Norwegian 
coast, where I could work and where you could join 
me with the children in the holidays? " 

He knew that Mette was in constant communica- 
tion with Schuffenecker, so there was every proba- 
bility that she was not entirely ignorant of the life 
he was leading in Paris. But he relied on her sound 
common sense and her cool and practical nature. To 
be honest with himself he had to acknowledge that 
she was his superior in the constancy of her emotions. 
There had never been a hint in her letters that she 
distrusted him as a husband, and it could not be 
denied that suspicion sometimes lurked between the 
lines of his letters to her. As, for instance, during his 
stay in Tahiti, when she visited Paris in their com- 
mon interest and at his own suggestion stayed at 

" You speak of Morice with an enthusiasm that is 
very suggestive of a woman in love, and besides that 
your letter is far more affectionate than usual, as 
though you had something to be condoned. I hope 
you have only sinned in thought. I can be jealous, 
but I have no right to speak, having been separated 
from you for so long. I can understand that a woman 
who spends her best years away from her husband 
may have moments of desire, both carnal and senti- 

He knew very well that the life he was now 


leading gave offence in many quarters and that the 
rumours in circulation about him were often exag- 
gerated and fantastic, and he himself felt the need 
of settling down. But the question was in the first 
place how he was to adopt a more regular existence, 
shared with his wife and children, so long as his art 
was looked upon as a curiosity that had no root either 
in the French spirit or in the artistic forms of the 
last twenty years. To occupy an isolated position in 
respectable society with his exigencies and with an 
uncertain and fitful income was not a tempting pros- 
pect. Where money was concerned he had never had 
a thought of the morrow, even as a banker, but had 
trusted in his own capacity as an incurable optimist. 
And he was still the same, where there was visible 
proof of anything tangible. All he had to do was to 
wait a little while, but not in isolation ; better to be 
a curiosity surrounded by a little band who were 
themselves trying new paths and with whom he 
could be generous as far as his means allowed. But 
there was also another question: whether in a calm 
and respectable existence he would be able to follow 
out the line of his art; whether it would enable him 
to live as genuinely in accordance with his nature as 
he was doing now, and to obtain inspiration for new 
works through direct experience. 

For he felt that Tahiti was only a stage in his ar- 
tistic development, as Brittany had been. He hoped 
and believed that he could enter upon a new stage. 



But how? As things were at present, in an existence 
which was neither one thing nor the other, he met 
with no satisfying experiences, everything was based 
on memory, and that did not give form to his imagi- 
nation, except when he took to black and white, il- 
lustrating and translating the literary and emotional 
elements that had crept into his painting. Here alone 
memory could assist him to give free rein to his fancy 
without being surrounded by the relevant atmos- 

Perhaps, too, this road would bring him nearer to 
the public, which either thought him mad or be- 
lieved he despised it and cared nothing whether it 
understood him or not 5 which was an entirely wrong 
view. The great public was only a neglected child 
that he longed to take to his heart and overwhelm 
with his bounty. And until he could do this, art 
would never bring him complete satisfaction. 

" Oh, if the good public would learn to under- 
stand a little bit, how I would love it! 

" When I see them examine one of my pictures 
and turn it upside down, I am always terrified they 
may spoil it, as when they feel their way with a girl, 
and that my work ever after will bear the trace of 
this violation. 

" And then someone down in the crowd calls out 
to me : c Why do you paint? For whom do you paint? 
For yourself alone? ' 

cc That hits me. I crawl away ashamed. " 


But the public was now divided into two camps, 
sharply opposed to each other. One of these sup- 
ported the official art of the Salon, which was repre- 
sented to some extent by stiff and dry monumental 
painting, based on history and literature even in its 
scenery 5 and the landscapes were dusty with genre 
and old romantic sentiment} an acquired literary 
education clung to official art. Against this the Im- 
pressionists had reacted, and now that they had con- 
quered a public for themselves, it had become some- 
thing of a catchword that painting must bear no 
literary stamp, it must be painting pure and simple. 
The monumental and decorative element in it must 
only result from the natural impression and the ar- 
tistic composition of the picture. It was easy after all 
to agree upon a formula like this and to understand 
it. It was really a case of cleverly exploiting the means 
of artistic expression. 

But Gauguin's art fell just midway between these 
two points of view. He himself reacted against both. 

" I am not a scholar, but I am a writer." 

His thoughts were in a constant state of activity, 
but not in any definite direction} experience was 
wanting to give them a fixed point of departure. If 
anyone had asked him: " What are you thinking 
of? " he might have answered: " I don't know." 
And this made him react against the current de- 
mand for dogma. Impressionism was succeeded by 
Post-Impressionism, Pointillism, Symbolism, and 


Raphaelism, and none of these gave room for the 
free flow of ideas and for the individual's natural 
craving for experience. A personal idiom simply in- 
troduced confusion into the artistic elegance of PArt 

Gauguin's determined attitude and his unshaka- 
ble conviction, which he purposely emphasized by 
ostentatiously dressing and living in defiance of con- 
ventional custom, did more to scare people away than 
to attract them. Most of them, Pissarro in particular, 
saw in this a mere pose on the part of the former 
bank clerk. And Pissarro was now a powerful and 
influential man, in many ways the leader of the Art 
nouveau movement. It was no pose. Only a very few 
understood that it implied a marked disclosure of 
Gauguin's soul and individuality, of what lay at the 
foundation of his art. This art was to be understood 
directly and not as a part of any artistic movement. 
Even the majority of those who made an effort to 
understand him interpreted his art on the basis of 
ideas which were strangely foreign to him. They 
dressed him up in borrowed plumes, or at any rate 
provided him with a tiny fig-leaf, fearing to see how 
naked he was in reality. 

It frequently happened that he felt lonely among 
his guests in the rue Vercingetorix. Nor did he get 
much work done j so when the fine weather set in he 
decided to go to Brittany and try to resume his work 
there, aided by his more recent experiences. 


i 896 


The place he chose was Pont-Aven, where the 
landlady o the inn, Madame Gloanec, was his good 
and faithful friend, who would not take it amiss if 
he arrived accompanied by Annah and the monkey. 
But his work got on slowly. Although he knew every 
inch of the place, he now looked at it with other 
eyes. The firm and shapely curves of the Maoris, the 
strong elasticity of their movements, were entirely 
lacking in these powerful, angular Bretons, whose 
movements were stiff and did not correspond so well 
with the rhythm of the landscape. Their calm, cold 
eyes did not afford the wonderful changes of expres- 
sion of the soft, warm eyes he had been used to. 

It was mostly landscapes that he painted j the 
bold undulation of their lines interested him, but he 
missed the wealth of colour of the Tahitian land- 
scape. The shivering monkey and the blue lips of the 
Javanese girl only served to remind him of the lack 
of sunshine, which did not help him to throw off the 
bronchitis he was always subject to in Paris. And yet 
he had no longing to be back in Tahiti. He felt that 
his future lay here in France; if only his native land 
would be quick and show him some hospitality. He 
needed it for the development of his art; friendliness 
and understanding, and perhaps a home of his own, 
were the .subjects of his day-dreams. 

But one day when he had taken Annah with him 
on a visit to the neighbouring town of Concarneau 
he fell in with half a score of drunken sailors, who 


showed an indelicate interest in the young woman. 
Not much had been said before Gauguin came to 
blows with the whole party., and they soon found out 
that single-handed he was a dangerous opponent in 
open fight. So one of them hastened a decision by 
giving Gauguin a kick which broke his shin so that 
the bone protruded. Some acquaintances came up 
and saw the sailors in flight and Gauguin lying in 
the roadway. 

Carried into a house, he asked for a cigarette and 
lighted itj then without a sign of pain he allowed 
the doctor to set his leg, smoking one cigarette after 
another. He passed the whole night like this, alone, 
without calling for anyone, merely struggling with 
evil thoughts. In the morning he was told that An- 
nah had decamped with his money and keys. He 
treated it with indifference, nor did he report the 
sailors' assault. He let it all rip; at any rate while he 
lay here he could be nothing but a nuisance to his 
fellow creatures. His only thought was of getting on 
his feet and away; but the leg was difficult to mend 
and the wound would not heal. 

cc My dear Daniel y 

a No, I don't write very often and everybody com- 
plains of it. You see, I have quite lost heart through 
all my suffering, especially at night, when I don't 
get any sleep at all. And this being so, of course I've 
got nothing done; four months wasted and lots of 


expenses. However, I have made a firm resolution: 
to settle in Oceania for good. 

" I shall return to Paris in December for the sole 
purpose of selling the whole caboodle for what it will 
fetch. (All of it.) If I can manage that, I shall leave 
not later than February. Then I can end my days in 
peace and freedom without taking thought for the 
morrow and without this everlasting struggle with 
the Imbeciles. This time I shall not travel alone j an 
Englishman and a Frenchman are coming with me 
for two or three years 5 but I shall stay on. Good-bye, 
Painting^ except as an amusement: my house will be 
one of carved woodwork. 

" I have had a letter from Z , very long and 
full of his troubles. I am really afraid that in a year's 
time he may be seriously attacked by hypochondri- 
acal mania. All this is not very cheerful and doesn't 
at all encourage me to stay on in this filthy Europe." 

During his long illness, in a condition in which 
his ambition was blunted by indifference, Gauguin 
had thoroughly thought out his position. He had 
lost his inclination to take up the cudgels against 
what he looked upon as a bugbear made up of many 
petty interests, which when brought together and 
properly organized formed a considerable power, 
only to be successfully opposed through patience and 
above all through the ability to recruit allies; and 
this was not his affair. If he ventured to enter upon 


the conflict alone, he would be fighting continually 
on two fronts, against enemies who were also bit- 
terly opposed to each other and were both sufficiently 
strong to keep each other at bay. He would only be 
a shuttlecock between the two parties. This de- 
manded an endurance to which neither his nature 
nor his strength was equal. 

He would retire beneath the palms and try to find 
peace in himself and wait till life or death overtook 
him. And he thought he would be able to accomplish 
this if only he could settle accounts once for all with 
his past and with that part of his ego which was still 
floundering in its net. It was here that the enemy 
lurked 5 the question was: could he overcome it? He 
would make the attempt. 

When he came back to his studio and saw it 
stripped of almost everything of value., his feelings 
were only reflected in a contemptuous shrug of the 
shoulders. So at any rate Annah was out of the story- 
No female domestic should ever come here again. 
His youthful admirer, the seventeen-year-old sculp- 
tor Paco Durio, whom he intended to take with him 
on his voyage, was a capable and active housekeeper 
and desired nothing better than to be in the master's 

It was not long before the circle reassembled in 
the rue Vercingetorix, and there were a few new 
faces among them. Of these August Strindberg par- 
ticularly interested Gauguin. The Swedish writer's 



fanatical absorption in all manner of subjects, his 
violent alternations between the most savage misan- 
thropy and tender humanitarianism, his fits of frank- 
ness and taciturnity, appealed to Gauguin. He saw 
that in his own way Strindberg was at war with civi- 
lization was lonely and afraid of being alone. He 
guessed that in many ways he had an opponent in this 
man, but an altogether worthy opponent, whom he 
felt he could outstrip in his struggle with civilized 

Every means was resorted to in order to make the 
sale of his pictures an event, and so Gauguin asked 
Strindberg, who wrote beautiful French, to contrib- 
ute the preface to the catalogue 5 but Strindberg de- 
clined in a long letter. 

" You insist upon having the preface to your cata- 
logue written by me, in memory of the winter of 
1894-5, which we are spending here behind the 
Institut, not far from the Pantheon, nearest of all to 
the cemetery of Montparnasse. 

" I should have been glad to let you have this 
souvenir to take with you to that island of Oceania 
where you are going in search of a setting in har- 
mony with and spacious enough for your mighty 
stature, but I find myself at the very start in an 
equivocal position and I hasten to reply to your re- 
quest by an c I cannot/ or, more brutally, by an c I 

will not. 5 



" At the same time I owe you an explanation of 
my refusal, which does not arise from any unfriend- 
liness or from a lazy pen, although I might easily 
have thrown the blame on the state of my hands, 
which, by the way, has not yet put a stop to my 

cc Here you have it: I cannot get hold of your art 
and I cannot like it. (I have no grasp of your art, 
which this time is exclusively Tahitian.) But I 
know that this admission will neither surprise nor 
wound you, for it appears to me that the hatred of 
others does nothing but strengthen you: your per- 
sonality relishes the antipathy it excites, in its anx- 
iety to remain intact. 

" And perhaps you are right there, for as soon as 
you were approved and admired, you would have a 
band of followers, you would be classified and la- 
belled, your art would be given a name which in less 
than five years the younger generation would use to 
brand a superannuated art, doing their utmost to 
hasten its decease. 

" I myself have made serious efforts to classify 
you, to bring you in as a link in the chain, to trace the 
historical connections of your development, but in 

" I remember my first stay in Paris, in 1 876. The 
town was gloomy, for the nation was in mourning 
for the events that had happened and uneasy about 
the future j there was ferment in the air. 



a In Swedish artistic circles the name of Zola had 
mot yet been heard, for ISAssommoir had not been 
published 5 I was present at the performance of 
'Rome vaincue at the Theatre Frangais, when Ma- 
dame Sarah Bernhardt, the new star, was crowned 
as a second Rachel, and my young artist friends had 
dragged me to Durand-RueFs to see something alto- 
gether new in painting. A young painter, then un- 
known, took me round, and we saw some very mar- 
vellous canvases, most of them signed Manet or 
Monet. But as I had other things to do in Paris be- 
sides looking at pictures (as secretary of the Library 
of Stockholm I had to search for an old Swedish 
missal in the Library of Sainte-Genevieve), I re- 
garded this new painting with placid indifference. 
But next day I came back, without really knowing 
why, and I discovered a c something * in these odd 
manifestations. I saw the pushing of a crowd on a 
steamer gangway, but I did not see the crowd itself; 
I saw the speed of an express train in a Normandy 
landscape, the movement of wheels in the street, 
hideous portraits of ugly people who could not sit 
still. Struck by these extraordinary canvases, I sent 
an article to a paper at home in which I attempted 
a translation of the sensations I believed the Impres- 
sionists had tried to express; and my article had a 
certain success, being taken as incomprehensible. 

" When I returned to Paris for the second time, 
in 1883, Manet was dead, but his spirit was alive in 


a whole school which disputed hegemony with Bas- 
tien Lepage; during my third stay in Paris, in 1 885, 
I saw the exhibition of Manet's works. By that time 
the movement had gained a foothold; it had pro- 
duced its effect and was now classified. In the E#- 
fosition triennale, same year, complete anarchy. 
Every kind of style, colour, and subject: historical, 
mythological, and naturalistic. Nobody would hear 
another word of schools or tendencies. Liberty was 
now the watchword. Taine had said that beauty was 
not prettiness, and Zola that art was a segment of 
nature seen through the medium of a temperament. 

" Nevertheless, in the midst of the dying con- 
vulsions of Naturalism, one name was pronounced 
with universal admiration, that of Puvis de Cha- 
vannes, There he was, quite alone, like a contradic- 
tion, painting with the soul of a believer, while not 
entirely neglecting his contemporaries' taste for al- 
lusion. (The term c Symbolism ? had not yet been 
invented, a very unfortunate designation for a thing 
so old as allegory,) 

" It was towards Puvis de Chavannes that my 
thoughts travelled yesterday evening, when, to the 
southern sounds of mandolin and guitar, I saw on the 
walls of your studio that confusion of sun-drenched 
pictures by which I have been haunted in my sleep 
last night. I saw trees that no botanist could put a 
name to, animals whose existence Cuvier never sus- 
pected, and men whom only you could have created. 


A sea which looked like a lava-flow, a sky that no 
God would find habitable. 

" c Monsieur/ 1 said in my dream, c you have cre- 
ated a new heaven and a new earth, but I don't feel 
comfortable in the midst of your creation: your sun- 
shine is too strong for me, I prefer the effect of light 
and shade. And your paradise is the home of an Eve 
who is not my ideal; for I, too, actually have a 
womanly ideal, or more than one! y 

" This morning I paid a visit to the Luxembourg 
to glance at Chavannes, who kept recurring to my 
mind. I contemplated with deep sympathy the poor 
fisherman, so entirely taken up with the catch which 
is to bring him the faithful love of his wife, who is 
picking flowers, and of his idle child. That is beau- 
tiful! But here I am, confronted with the crown of 
thorns and that is a thing I hate, monsieur, I 
would have you to know that! I will have nothing to 
do with this pitiful God who turns the other cheek. 
No, no, give me rather Vitzliputzli devouring hu- 
man hearts in the sunshine. 

" No, Gauguin was not made from a rib of Cha- 
vannes, nor from one of Manet or Bastien Lepage 

" What is he, then? He is Gauguin, the savage 
who hates the constraint of civilization, something 
like a Titan, jealous of the Creator, who in his spare 
time makes a little creation of his own; a child who 
takes his toys to pieces and uses them to make others, 



one who rejects and defies., preferring to see the sky 
red rather than blue with the crowd. 

" Upon my word, I believe that writing this has 
warmed me so that I am beginning to have a certain 
understanding of Gauguin's art. 

" A modern author has been blamed for not draw- 
ing real beings, but just simply inventing his per- 
sonages himself. Just simply! 

cc Bon voyage, MaUre; only, come back to us and 
to me. By that time perhaps I shall have learned to 
understand your art better, and that will enable me 
to write a real preface for a new catalogue in a new 
Hotel Drouotj for I, too, am beginning to feel an 
immense need of turning savage and of creating a 
new world. 

cc August Strindberg " 

Gauguin was moved when he read this letter. 
Here was a man, a powerful and remarkable per- 
sonality, who was himself trying to get to the bottom 
of his own nature and who faced his work with the 
effort, reluctant but frank and direct, to penetrate 
his individuality. It encouraged him to trust in the 
public and to believe that the natural human eye had 
not yet lost its power of seeing and, through seeing, 
of understanding at last. This should be the preface 
to his catalogue and he himself would stretch out a 
hand to draw them all nearer to him. 

" I received your letter today ; it is a preface to 


my* catalogue. I had the idea of asking you for this 
preface when I saw you the other day in my studio, 
playing the guitar and singing to it. Your blue eyes 
the eyes of a Northerner examined with at- 
tention the pictures hanging on the wall. I had a 
sense of a revolution, an actual clash between your 
civilization and my barbarism. The civilization un- 
der which you are suffering. The barbarism which 
to me is a rejuvenation. 

" In the presence of the Eve I have chosen, whom 
I have painted in the forms and harmonies of another 
world, your memories of your own choice have per- 
haps conjured up a painful past. The Eve who has 
her origin in your civilization makes a woman-hater 
of you., and of nearly all of us. 

" The Eve who gave you a fright in my studio 
will one day make you smile less bitterly. The world 
which perhaps neither Cuvier nor a botanist would 
be able to recognize will be a paradise which I have 
only sketched. And from the sketch to the realiza- 
tion of the dream is a long way. But is it not so that 
the foreseeing of happiness is a foretaste of Nirvana? 

a The Eve I have painted, and she alone, can ap- 
pear before us naked. Your Eve in this simple cos- 
tume would not be able to avoid a feeling of shame 
and would perhaps be too beautiful ; she would evoke 
in us evil, and sorrow. 

" In order to make my meaning clearer I will 
compare not merely these two women but also the 



Maori language, a Ural tongue, spoken by my Eve, 
with the language your woman talks a language 
selected from all others, a flexible language, Euro- 

" In the languages of Oceania, when they are in 
their own element, preserved in their native gross- 
ness and free from careful polishing, everything is 
bare, striking, and primitive, whereas in the inflec- 
tive languages the roots from which, like all lan- 
guages, they originated have disappeared in daily 
use, which has worn away their reliefs and contours. 
They are like an improved mosaic in which one has 
ceased to distinguish the joins between the stones, 
more or less roughly put together, and can no longer 
admire the work as a handsome lapidary picture. 
Only a practised eye can follow the construction. 

cc Excuse this long philological discussion. I think 
it is necessary for the explanation of the barbaric 
drawing I have adopted in order to represent pic- 
torially a Ural country and its people. 

" Now in conclusion thanks, Strindberg. 
When shall we meet again? " 

As Gauguin lay on his sick-bed in Brittany he had 
made up his mind to sell everything that belonged 
to the past for what it would fetch. So violent had 
been the shock that nothing seemed to matter but 
peace. He soon saw that this broken leg was going to 
be a serious business. He had never had any severe 


illness, so the fact of his physical disability made an 
end of his natural resolution, which had always led 
him to make plans for the future; now all he cared 
about was to wind up his affairs and get away. 

But when all arrangements had been made for the 
auction, he began to take a rather different view. 
The sympathy of his little faithful circle, and espe- 
cially of Strindberg, gave him encouragement. Cer- 
tain of his friends Daniel in particular, on whom 
he most depended insisted that he ought to wait 
awhile and see how things were going. All this re- 
stored his feeling of optimism. His business sense 
was revived: he would not sell without reserve, ex- 
posing himself to the speculation of the dealers. On 
the contrary, he would send prices up at the auction 
by getting some of his friends to bid on his account. 
The papers should be worked with announcements 
of his departure for Tahiti. That had acted as a 
stimulant on the last occasion, so that his pictures 
from Brittany now fetched quite good prices. Even 
in Denmark, Mette had managed to sell some pic- 
tures well. Once more he was in full activity, for- 
getting the pains in his legs and his abominable 
lameness. He wrote to his wife giving a glowing ac- 
count of his prospects and suggesting that she should 
try to sell one or two pictures to a woman friend who 
had bought before, and then come and visit him, or 
possibly he would go to Copenhagen. 

Everything had been done to make the auction of 

-22 9 - 


February 1 8th a success. He had forty-nine pictures, 
drawings, and wood-carvings. 

The sale was a terrible disappointment; only a few 
pictures were really sold, among them two to Degas. 
There was no life in the bidding; the picture he 
thought most of, Manao Tupa$au, only reached 
nine hundred francs and that was his own final 
bid. For / raro te oviri, the view from his hut with 
the two women under the pandanus-trees and the 
green surf of the Pacific breaking on the sunlit 
golden sand, it was impossible to get anyone to bid 

The reaction was dreadful; coupled with dis- 
appointment at his niggardly lot was bitterness at his 
own stupidity. Here he sat, a suffering wreck, in his 
cold, empty studio, watching the golden dream of 
which he had made a reality being stacked up against 
the walls, canvases in frames. Oh, what a cheap thing 
art may become in a moment for him who has sacri- 
ficed his life to its creation! One can rid oneself of its 
burden, others will take that up. But the burden 
of life? Conscience, injustice done to others, and 
their injustice to oneself due to misunderstanding 
and want of understanding, unsatisfied longings for 
friendship and affection due to want of kindliness, 
the egoism that results from an absence of the condi- 
tions that might make one generous could all 
these be put into a sack and abandoned together with 
the heap of ruins that lay before him? 


cc Dear Mette^ 

" Your letter! I have been waiting for it a long 
time. I know what the papers say about me. As long 
ago as five years you believed in the correctness of the 
figures m s<pite of what I told you. This time it is 
another story. 

" I fought hard to get my pictures quoted and I 
spread the rumour of an early departure to give them 
a value as scarcities. Here are the actual figures. 
cc The sale fetched 23,640 fr. 

" Excepting 1,370 fr. of real sales, everything was 
bought in by me under borrowed names. 

7% on 23,640 makes 1,654.80 

Hire of room 150.00 

Transport 30.00 

Less 1,370.00 


" As profit I have 464.80 out of my own pocket! ! 

" Now let us have a little talk. You must admit 
that since my return any man in my place would 
have made sorrowful reflections on life, on the fam- 
ily, and all the rest. 

" i . Written by you : c You will have to get on by 
yourself. y 

" 2. Written by the children: Nothing. 

" 3. My leg has been broken and it ruins my 
health. Not a word from my family. 



" 4. The winter has been terribly long and I have 
had no one but myself to take care of my chest, 
uselessly y chronic bronchitis, I literally cannot live 
without sunshine. 

" In these conditions, with the enemies my paint- 
ing has made me, I have to take every precaution if 
I am not to come to grief. At the age of 47 I WILL 
not be reduced to poverty, and yet I am very near it; 
and once down, there is nobody in the world who will 
help me up again. Your words: You will have to get 
on by yourself, are significant. I take them to heart." 

Did Mette ever fully understand what it meant 
to get on by himself? Had she any thought beyond 
the purely practical one, that she was looking after 
herself and their five children? No doubt she had 
not. How far apart were their ideas! a deep gulf 
kept them from coming to an understanding. 

To put the blame on her was just as ineffectual as 
taking it all on himself. But it was he alone who bore 
the burden of ignominy. 

To begin with, the only way of getting rid of it 
was to go away, back to Tahiti, and continue his 
work. For this he had to raise funds; by depositing 
his pictures with a couple of dealers and some inter- 
ested private persons he succeeded in getting to- 
gether the money for his voyage and a little capital 
for making a start in Tahiti. The pictures were to be 
sold as occasion arose and he was to have monthly 


payments sent to Tahiti and a full account of the 
prices the pictures fetched, whenever one of them 
was sold. In case of difficulty Daniel de Monfreid 
held his power of attorney. 

If all the promises made to him were kept, his life 
was more or less secured for the next three years, 
with reasonable care. His experience with the Breton 
pictures encouraged him to hope that he would be 
able to obtain decent prices for the older Tahiti 
works within that time. And then the picture deal- 
ers would approach him. One or two had already ap- 
peared on the horizon, like hyenas waiting for their 
prey to drop ; they were beginning to scent him after 
all. If he could once get his foot in with one of them, 
the rest would come about of itself. Then one could 
begin to make plans for the future. 

But now the only thing to do was to get away as 
quietly as possible; no dinners and speeches. A little 
farewell party at a cafe for his best friends, where 
he could appear in his best humour and distribute 
some drawings among them as a souvenir of the man 
who was going back to Tahiti to be happy. That was 
what they must think and that he would stay 
there for good. It was to be no Au revoiry but a a For- 
get me not. 5 ' 

He parted from them at the door of the cafe. 

Remember no seeing-off at the station to- 

Alone he walked towards home, rather unsteadily, 



partly on account of his leg. A cab came up alongside 
and followed him at a walk. He dismissed it with a 
friendly wave of the hand : " Thanks, Pll walk home 
the last night Pm here." A streetwalker approached, 
with her best smile. a What's your name? " 
" Henriette." " And mine's Henri. Will you go 
home with me? " " Are you kind? " " Yes! 
I'm kind." 

Always the same here in Europe, in big things as 
in small. Buying and selling. 


IN spite of the unusual calmness of the voyage to 
Tahiti, Gauguin felt unwell on arriving at Papeete. 
It was not only the wound in his leg that gave him 
trouble j he felt slack and had pains in the back of his 
head indisposed in a way he had never experi- 
enced before. Perhaps his last Parisian adventure 
with Henriette, casual as it had been, might have a 
significance that he did not look for. It was no use 
thinking of that now. He had to see about a house. 

This time he chose to settle on the western side 
of the island, at Pounoaouia, where he rented a site 
upon which he could build a studio according to his 
own ideas. His present plan was to lay more stress on 
monumental decorative composition, avoiding as far 
as possible all that had to do with the surroundings. 
The important thing now was to have a large room 
where he could work with plenty of light. 

Even here in Tahiti he would try to break as far 
as he could with his past and arrive at another frame 



of mindj which might bring about a revival in his 
art. Here on the western side the landscape was 
bolder in its outlines and more wooded and the 
light was diff erent, with more violent transitions be- 
tween heat and cold. 

As the place was at some distance from Papeete, 
Gauguin was always on the move while the hut was 
being built, without any fixed place of abode. His 
whole attention was directed to getting a roof over 
his head, so that he might settle down to work as soon 
as possible. He was nervous and restless and tried to 
shorten the period of waiting by distractions which 
were not beneficial to his health. All this hurrying 
backwards and forwards wore him out, now that he 
had lost his former activity; his lameness troubled 
him not only physically but morally, since he had 
always been proud of his powers of endurance and 
bodily strength. 

And when the studio was finished, the next thing 
was to furnish it according to his taste and to have 
everything settled so that he could begin work with 
a feeling of security. All this took time, and autumn 
was far advanced before he could set to work in 
earnest. It was a comfort to know that in this climate 
he could face the winter calmly, contenting himself 
with regarding it as a picturesque idea which seemed 
distant and fantastic in these surroundings. But per- 
haps he would try tuning his palette in simple har- 
monies and begin with a snow-covered landscape 


from Brittany. There was a simplification in it which 
appealed to him, and which, in another way, he 
would now try to introduce into his painting. 

Always so many things to be thought out before 
one can begin in earnest. 

a My dear Daniel, 

" At the time of receiving your kind letter I 
haven't touched a paint-brush, except to do a win- 
dow in my studio. I had to find temporary quarters in 
Papeete while making up my mind 3 finally I decided 
to build a big Tahitian hut out in the country. The 
situation is magnificent, I can tell you: in the shade, 
close to the road, and behind me a view of the moun- 
tains that would take your breath away. Imagine 
a huge birdcage of bamboo lattice-work with a 
thatched roof of coco palm, divided into two parts by 
the curtains of my former studio. One of these parts 
is the bedroom, with very little light, to keep it cool. 
The other part is the studio, with a big window high 
up. On the floor, mats and my old Persian carpet 5 
the whole place decorated with hangings, knick- 
knacks, and drawings. 

a As you see, I am not much to be pitied at the 

" Every night my bed is invaded by a lot of mad 
tomboys ; there were three of them on duty last night. 
I'm going to give up this rackety life and take a 
steady-going woman into the house j then I shall 



work like a horse, all the more as I feel in the vein 
and believe I shall do better work than before. 

" My former wife has got married while I was 
away and Pve been obliged to make her husband a 
cuckold; but she can't come and live with me, in 
spite of a week's escapade. 

" That is the obverse of the medal; the reverse is 
not so reassuring. As usual when I feel I am in funds 
and have expectations, I spend freely., trusting in the 
future and in my talent; then I soon find myself at 
the end of my tether. When my house is paid for I 
shall have 900 francs left and I hear no news from 
France, which makes me rather anxious. When I 
left, Levy was to send me 2,600 francs owing to me 
by the Cafe des Varietes. With other creditors I am 
owed all together 4,300 francs; I don't receive even 
a letter. 

a As always, you are the first to think of me and I 
am very grateful to you. On receipt of this go and see 
Levy, rue Saint-Lazare 57, and tell him I am very 
uneasy both about my money and about the pictures 
I left with him. If you are in London, write tp Mol- 

" People will say to me: c Why do you go so far 
away? J But when I go no farther off than Brit- 
tany> for instance, it is the same story. 

" Listen to what Fve done with my family: I've 
given them the slip. Let my family get out of the 
mess for themselves, it's not as if I was the only one 


to help them! ! ! I count on spending the rest of my 
days here in my hut, in perfect peace. Oh yes, Pm 
a great criminal. What does it matter ! Michelangelo 
was another; and I am not Michelangelo." 

When once Gauguin made a start he worked with 
a violent effort and did not spare himself. His 
thoughts were fixed on the present moment, on the 
experience that had inspired his work, often with 
an intensity and an absorption that continually en- 
hanced the dramatic conflict between himself as a 
European and the people he loved. Whenever he 
tried to simplify his way of thinking, by forgetting 
the distance separating their natural candour and 
instinctive manifestation of beauty from his own 
passionate and conscious interest in their beauty, he 
had a guilty feeling of intruding upon their mystic 
spiritual life, with which he was really unqualified 
to identify himself. He enjoyed them, delighted in 
them; and it gave him a voluptuous feeling to repro- 
duce their beauty. Nevertheless the relation between 
him and them remained that of the wolf and its prey, 
and he was constantly reminded that the natives of 
Tahiti, owing to the countless outrages they had suf- 
fered at the hands of Europeans, themselves had an 
instinctive sense of this, although they approached 
the wolf without fear and put themselves in his 
power. Because they had not yet learned the meaning 
of fear. 



Gauguin gave way to this f eeling, at the very time 
when he longed more than ever to put his whole 
civilized past behind him and adopt the life of these 
beautiful creatures. Would he succeed in this or 
would his memories continue to overwhelm him and 
mingle with the pain of his sleepless nights? 

Would he never escape from the clutches of art or 
of his dependence on civilization, so that all he could 
depict was an ever elusive experience, beautiful and 
tragic? The mere image of it was enough to make 
him forget for a moment that the God of his race had 
once driven his race out of this paradise, and that he 
alone could never return to it. 

Now that he stood on the threshold of paradise, 
civilization called him back. Money difficulties from 
the Old World were lying in wait for him. The 
malady he brought from thence insidiously gained 
ground. The letters he received from his wife were 
brief and contained only practical questions, most 
of them difficult of solution. She on her side was 
hurt by his failure to understand her position, and 
she had nothing to reproach herself with, having 
followed the letter of the law in which she had been 
brought up. 

He was menaced on every side and his power of 
resistance was paralysed. Sickness found him an easy 

" The accident I had here in Tahiti was nearly 
fatal j as a result of privations and agitations my heart 


was in a very bad state and it was difficult to stop the 
vomiting of blood. According to the doctor a relapse 
would be the end of me, and in future I must take 

" So in future if you have any more letters to write 
me like those I have recently received, I would ask 
you not to do so. My work is not finished and I must 
go on living. 

a Think this over. And stop these everlasting 
lamentations which do no good and a lot of harm. I 
might reply to you (that is, if you had an under- 
standing heart except for your children) : Do you 
think I am lying on a bed of roses? 

" Could you possibly send me my pair of swords? I 
might have a use for them some day." 

His prospects on leaving the hospital were not 
bright. Everything seemed to fail him, when in his 
enfeebled state he needed the fulfilment of all bar- 

" My dear Daniel y 

" A few words in haste to catch the mail. I am in 
hospital worn out with suffering and I hope to be 
cured in a month's time, but how am I going to pay 
the hospital? Last month you and Z announced 
that money was on the way. A mistake: Mauffra 
made excuses; heavy unforeseen expenses prevented 
his carrying out his engagement, but in the following 
month the money should reach me without fail. This 



month neither money nor a letter from anybody. 

u I write to you because there is an officer going to 
France, taking with him some canvases of mine, 
rather dauby on account of my state of health; and 
then I have a temperament which drives me to 
finish a picture straight away while the fever lasts. 
Whereas working only one hour a day . . . 

" However, such as they are, I send them to you. 
Perhaps they are good; I have put into them so much 
anguish, so much suffering, that this may compensate 
for the clumsy execution. Mauclair says I am revolt- 
ing in my grossness and brutality. What an in- 
justice " 

By degrees Gauguin became as though possessed 
by all this waiting and by an infinite loathing of hav- 
ing to write the same letters again and again. The 
little strength his illness left him for working was 
used up on this spectre of waiting, and whenever 
news came it was as before nothing! And then, 
what he always felt was the worst of all, having to go 
cap in hand to borrow money for bare necessities and 
the expenses entailed by his illness. For two years he 
was occupied with little else. Many a time when his 
illness was at its worst, he hoped it might make an 
end of him. Broadly speaking, he had nothing more 
to live for, if he could not get to work. Far away on 
the horizon of his thoughts he had a glimpse of some 
children he loved, and especially a daughter. He took 


out the little booklet he wrote for her when he was 
last in Tahiti, in which he told her who her father 
was and what were his thoughts. In it was a little 
water-colour sketch of his picture Manao Tupa^pau 
the spirit of the departed watching over the little 
naked girl who is lying in her bed and staring into 
the darkness. The spirit raises its hand to admonish 
and protect. 

" To my daughter Aline this little book is dedi- 
cated. Scattered notes, disconnected like dreams, like 
life itself, all made up of fragments." 

She is to have this after his death. He turns the 
pages and begins to read : 

" Woman's nature is love, but it is this love that 
conceives, and in conception she abandons herself un- 
conditionally. Woman only attains her full individ- 
uality in abandoning herself. Woman desires to be 
free and has a right to be free. And truly it is not man 
who hinders her. 

u On the day when her honour is no longer seated 
under the navel, she will be set free, and perhaps her 
health will be improved/ 5 

" We are told that God took a lump of clay and 
made all that you know. The artist for his part ought 
not to copy nature, if he really wishes to create a 
divine masterpiece, but should take elements from 
nature and from them create a new element. 

"There is something of this in the words: 
Increase and multiply. To increase is to be strong. 



Multiply: Increase the created by a new creation. 

" A true painter always feels a certain shame in 
borrowing another's beauty. It is not the subject, but 
his work, that ought to be beautiful, 35 

u In the firmament there is a book in which are 
written the laws of harmony and beauty. The men 
who know how to read this book, says Swedenborg, 
are the favoured of God. And he adds that the artist 
is the true elect, since he alone has the power to write 
this book, and he must be looked upon as God's mes- 

cc I have known perfect misery. I have suffered 
hunger and cold and all they bring in their train 5 
one grows accustomed to this, and with some strength 
of will one ends by laughing at it. But it is terrible to 
be hindered in one's work. 

" In Paris especially, as in all great cities, the hunt 
for money takes up three-quarters of one's time and 
half one's energy.- 

" It is quite true that suffering whets the edge of 
genius. But there must not be too much of it. For 
then it kills you. 

" With a good share of arrogance I have suc- 
ceeded in acquiring much energy, and I have trained 
myself to will. 

" Is arrogance a fault and ought one to develop it? 
I say yes! It is oace for all the best way of fighting 
against the human beast that dwells in us." 

Perhaps, like himself, Aline has had it dinned into 


her ears that he is a man who has deserted his wife 
and children. 

Well, that is true enough, but has she been told, 

" Is it not something of a miscalculation that 
everything is to be sacrificed to the children? And 
does not this mean depriving the nation of the cre- 
ative ability of its most efficient members? 

" You sacrifice yourself for your child, as he will 
sacrifice himself in turn when he grows up. And so it 
goes on. There will be^nothing left but sacrifice. And 
cowardice will be long-lasting." 

He puts the little book back in the drawer, takes 
up her photograph, and examines it. The fine, strong 
lines of her profile, the heavy eyelids, the high and 
narrow shape of the head, and the rather melancholy 
look about the mouth are cast in the same mould as 
his own, only less affected by the storms of time. She 
is so like him. In her disposition too, no doubt, as he 
understands from Mette's letters. To her he can 
write all this, which she will understand when she is 
grown up. She was only thirteen when this portrait 
was taken, but now she is twenty. He himself is 
nearly fifty, and finished. The book will soon be 

Aline was now the strongest tie which bound him 
to his family. One day it was brutally severed. His 
wife informed him that Aline had died of pneu- 
monia 5 the winter had been too severe for her. She 



now lay buried far away under the cold white snow. 

" I read over the shoulder of a friend who is writ- 
ing: c I have just lost my daughter. I no longer love 
God. She was called Aline, after my mother 

" ' Everyone loves in his own way: with some love 
surges up over the coffin; with others ... I don't 

" c Her grave far away, the flowers an empty 
show, all this. 

" c Her grave is here, close beside me. My tears 
are the flowers upon it living flowers these.* " 

The news of Aline's death reached him at a time 
when one misfortune after another was crowding 
upon him. 

"Every day, as thoughts press upon me, the 
wound grows deeper and at this moment I have lost 
heart altogether. I must certainly have an enemy 
somewhere up above who will not allow me a min- 
ute's peace. 

" The man from whom I leased a little patch of 
ground to build my hut on has just died, leaving his 
affairs in great disorder, and in consequence his land 
has been sold. So now I am looking for a bit of 
ground and I shall have to rebuild. 

<c I have received Les Jlommes du jour (sent by 
Schuffenecker, with an absurd portrait of me, done 
by him). This fellow makes me tired 5 what an idiot ! 
And what pretension! A cross, some flames, and 
there you are!. That's symbolism 


" I'm trying to amuse myself with wood-engrav- 
ing, any wood I can get hold of and no press. . . . 

<c I have managed at last to get a loan of 1,000 
francs for one year out of the Caisse Agricole (the 
bank of Tahiti). With this I have bought a plot for 
700 francs (too big for me, but the only one to be 
had) near where I am living (about a hundred 
yards). With the remaining 300 francs I shall re- 
build and refurnish. I have still 200 francs in cash to 
live on. Later on I shall recover the price of my pur- 
chase, seeing that there are a hundred coconut palms 
on this piece of land which may bring me in 500 
francs a year. If my health permits and if I have a 
few sous left to spend, I shall plant vanilla there; it 
pays well and doesn't require much labour. Who 
knows! perhaps some day I may find myself free and 
with nothing to worry about." 

Gauguin's brain was continually occupied with 
economic visions. Especially at night he would drive 
away evil thoughts by building castles in the air and 
thus obtain a few hours of peaceful sleep, in which 
his fancies lived on in his dreams and often assumed 
marvellous shapes. Then the daylight brought him 
back to a reality which sometimes made him think of 
taking his own life and thus entering on the sleep of 
which he was so badly in need. But as often as not he 
was tormented by nightmares, and then the days 
were more endurable. The landscape was spread out 
before him in all its beauty. Nature herself was there, 



so strangely untouched by all the misfortunes that 
lie in wait for one everywhere. There was something 
eternally constant about this nature, which rose 
again, as proud and as young as ever, after the raging 
of the elements. What curious beings men were, after 
all, how fleeting and inconstant beginning as 
nothing and ending as nothing, racking their brains 
through life in the effort to understand their own 
nature and the mystery of life, without ever getting 
to the bottom of these questions: Whence do we 
come? Who are we? And whither are we going? But 
while we are alive we are a part of nature, an element 
in that which gives it a beauty. A beauty which in 
one way or another we feel constrained to express. 

Gauguin had made up his mind to die, but before 
that he would paint a great picture which was to sum 
up all that he had experienced in his passage through 

a I assure you I had resolved to die last December. 
But before dying I wished to paint a great picture 
which was in my head, and for that whole month I 
worked at it night and day in a tremendous fever. I 
can tell you, it isn't a picture like Puvis de Cha- 
vannes's, with studies from nature, preliminary car- 
toons, and all the rest of it. The whole thing is done 
offhand, with a coarse brush, on a piece of sacking 
full of knots and wrinkles, so its appearance is ter- 
ribly rough. 

" They will say it has been left unfinished. It is 



true that one is not a good judge of one's own work, 
but, all the same, I believe not only that this canvas 
is better than all that have gone before, but in fact 
that I shall never do anything better or approaching 
it. Before dying I have put into it all my energy, so 
much passionate pain and a vision so clear that it 
needs no correction and conceals the hastiness of the 
work, bringing it all to life. This does not stink of 
the model, the craft, and the alleged rules from 
which I have always emancipated myself, though 
sometimes with apprehension. 

" It is a canvas measuring fourteen feet nine 
inches by five and a half feet in height. The two 
upper corners are chrome yellow, with the inscrip- 
tion on the left and my signature on the right, like a 
fresco damaged at the corners and applied on a golden 
wall. Below on the right a baby asleep, then three 
women squatting on the ground. Two figures dressed 
in purple are confiding their reflections to each other j 
a figure, purposely drawn huge in spite of perspec- 
tive, raises its arms and looks with astonishment at 
these two personages who dare to think of their des- 
tiny. A figure in the centre is plucking fruit. Two 
cats beside a child. A white goat. The idol, raising its 
two arms mysteriously and rhythmically, seems to 
foreshadow the future state. A seated figure appears 
to be listening to the idol ; then an old woman near to 
death seems to accept it, resigning herself to her 
thoughts, and she brings the legend to an end; at her 



feet a strange bird, holding a lizard in its claws, repre- 
sents the futility of empty words. The scene is by a 
stream in the woods. In the background the sea, then 
the mountains of the neighbouring island. In spite of 
the transitions of tone the aspect of the landscape 
from one end to the other is blue and Veronese green. 
From this all the nude figures stand out in a bold 
orange. Supposing one were to say to the pupils of 
the Beaux-Arts competing for the prix de Rome: 
c The picture that you have to paint is to represent: 
" Whence do we come? Who are we? Whither are 
we going? " * what would they make of it? I have 
finished a philosophical work on this theme com- 
pared with the Gospel} I think it's good. If I feel 
strong enough to copy it out, I will send it to you." 
After the picture had reached a point at which he 
was able to make up his mind about it, he seemed to 
awaken to new life. He felt that he was not yet at the 
end of his powers and energy; he still had something 
to say. That what was intended to be a conclusion had 
in reality opened a way for him to a yet greater liber- 
ation and increased decorative and monumental sim- 
plicity. He sat studying it day after day. The picture 
came to life and repeated the words of Pascal. When 
does a picture begin and when is it finished? Can a 
real work of art ever be so perfected as to contain the 
whole soul of the artist? Or will there not be a 
vacuum somewhere which he will wish to fill up 


especially in painting, which lives entirely in a world 
of its own, unrelated to surrounding space? 

. It is in this vacuum that new ideas develop, trying 
to create a new world in which the soul of the artist 
may lose itself anew. 

His pictorial imagination was set in motion and 
again sought to control his ideas. Life was worth 
while, after all, even if things looked almost hope- 

Before very long he would have to repay the loan 
from the bank, otherwise it would distrain on his 
house and the many canvases he had deposited as 
security. And even if he could postpone a settlement 
by paying an instalment, it would be the same thing 
in six months' time. And he had to live, and above all 
to get well. His head was buzzing with schemes; he 
wrote home, peremptorily demanding what was due 
to him, proposing to turn himself into a sort of cor- 
poration, describing his position in the blackest col- 
ours, making appeals both to pity and to common 
sense. In short, he wished to live. But at home every- 
thing took time ; the driblets that reached him barely 
covered his first instalment to the bank. In order to 
live he had to accept the most ordinary office em- 
ployment at six francs a day. Good-bye to painting 
for a while. And then he had to move to Papeete, the 
most dangerous place for a European} but it had to 
be done, while waiting for the wheel to turn. Little 


straws told him that the wind was about to change 
in his favour. A new and very remarkable picture 
dealer, Ambroise Vollard, who specialized in Ce- 
zanne, seemed to have taken a fancy to him. But he 
knew the importance of not being in too great a 
hurry. As usual he explained all this at length to his 
friend Daniel, and asked him to see Degas. His old 
resolution was awakened, he shrank from nothing 
which might help him to get back to his hut and his 
work. And he descried a faint hope of being able to 
return to France, when once he had fully worked out 
the idea that had been fostered by his great picture. 
Living in the town was disastrous to Gauguin. He 
could not work at his art, and intercourse with the 
Europeans very rarely had a good influence on his 
character. His rather outspoken utterances on every 
subject except art did not fall on good ground, and 
tfris was particularly true of his political views, 
which were far too much influenced by his indig- 
nation against the French colonial administration. 
The contemptuous way in which the Europeans 
treated the natives scandalized him so that he whole- 
heartedly took the part of the latter j and very soon 
he came to be looked upon as an oddity, a man 
whom one stood drinks to make him talk and have a 
good laugh at his expense. His direct insults were 
ignored. If he had had his duelling swords -there 
would have been no opportunity of using them. With 
one or two exceptions the other colonists were inca- 


pable of understanding him as an artist, and as a man 
they were inclined to despise him, particularly as he 
was an artist without apparent means of existence. 
The effect of all this was that his malady, which had 
shown some improvement, again got the upper hand, 
so that he had to return to the hospital. And, as things 
were, this meant utter ruin. 

Then it was that the wheel of fortune began very 
slowly to move in the right direction. Some of his 
pictures had been sold in France, and at the close of 
'98 he received word that Vollard offered to buy and 
he sent him nine canvases. At the beginning of the 
new year he was able to move back to his hut and re- 
sume his old life with his young yahine^ who would 
soon bear him a child. 

Everything now looked really brighter, but un- 
fortunately it took him several months to obtain some 
relief from the eczema which had taken a disquiet- 
ing turn during his stay at Papeete and still kept him 
awake at night. At the same time he was worried by 
the thought of his compatriots in the town and their 
treatment of him^ and of how he could shake things 
up in the colony. 

He hit upon the unhappy idea, in association with 
an ex-sailor, now a merchant in a large way and a 
political malcontent, of starting a paper, Les Gitepes, 
which would give him an outlet for his indignation 
against the administration of the island and against 
the priesthood. 


" Enclosed a bit of a paper which will tell you 
about the rumpus I raised last month. Result: noth- 
ing against me, neither duel nor prosecution. What a 
rotten state of affairs in our colonies! Anyhow it was 
time to do something of this sort, because everybody 
was inclined to tread on my toes, taking me to be a 
man without a penny. Today they are beginning to 
show., if not respect, at least a salutary fear." 

As usual, he acted openly and accepted the whole 
responsibility as well as all the work of providing 
the paper with illustrations and of printing it, which 
was done with a hectograph. 

No notice at all was taken of the paper and there 
was not much chance of its having any circulation to 
speak of. This only spurred Gauguin on, and his im- 
petuous temperament, which had been rendered ex- 
tremely nervous by the sufferings of the last few 
years, became so excessively occupied with this that 
he started another paper on his own account Le 
Sourire with the same make-up, but rather more 
elaborate and illustrated with woodcuts. He was so 
busy with this that he entirely forgot that his affairs 
were looking up. It had become a matter of life and 
death for him to clear away all the corruption he 
thought he could see in these colonies. And the less 
attention was paid to his attacks, the greater was his 
disgust with it all, entirely darkening his view of the 
beautiful island. It lost its charm for him, as did also 
the natives, who in the years that had passed since 




his former visit had become more and more marked 
by European influence. He noticed in many little 
things how hypocrisy was slowly but surely gaining 
ground everywhere among the natives, so that the 
illusion he had tried to keep up, that they were only 
guided by natural instincts, was destroyed by many 
little incidents. All this made a deep impression on 
him. His own character had changed and become 
irritable, so that he treated his vaMne in a way that 
could only lead him to reproach himself. He, too, 
had become a ruffian, a bandit, everything he would 
hate to be, in the eyes of these people. And just at this 
time when he needed more than ever to work out his 
idea of the primitive, the simple, and the natural 
and when, to all appearances, he might have found 
peace to do so. Now he was once more a homeless 
vagrant, and, what made it worse, ill, injured, and 

His desire of following out his idea was further 
intensified by the reception given to his last things in 
France, and particularly the big picture he had sent 
home. Even Daniel expressed himself rather vaguely 
about it confining himself for the most part to 
strictures on its awkward shape, the coarse canvas 
and faulty preparation. All this showed that he was 
on the right course. He pursued his aim by following 
the flight of his thought. That which the others had 
seen in his previous Tahiti pictures, and which he 
himself had never intended to express, he would now 


sweep away with his new pictures. The symbolism 
which Charles Morice, for instance, had inserted 
in Noa-Noa y with his Reminiscences, Fancies, and 
Dreams, was foreign to anything he had had in mind. 
He would take that book up, too, and purify it of all 
the vague and obscure sentiment that was so entirely 
opposed to his nature. 

The task he had undertaken was not concluded, 
an immense work lay before him and he had to per- 
form it. But how would that be possible here, in an 
atmosphere infected by the foul breath of the Euro- 
peans where he himself was poisoned day by day 
by his own malicious thoughts of his compatriots? 
His relations with his vahine and his child had grad- 
ually assumed the form of a distant memory, a con- 
nubial life which he believed to be forgotten. They 
were dominated by the necessity of keeping a strict 
watch on the uncontrollable element in his own 
temper, by a feeling of impotence in not being able to 
give free rein to his nature, a sense of dependence 
which was heightened more and more by his con- 

He had to get away, to recover his powers, to- 
gether with peace and freedom; and again he re- 
called his friend the captain's description of the 
Marquesas Islands that still unspoilt group in the 
midst of the ocean, and among them Hiva-oa with 
its mighty mountain on which the wild goats leapt, 
with its long, fertile valleys where the bird-life was 


as teeming as the wild bananas, and where shoals of 
fish were chased inshore by the whales so that one 
could scoop them up in one's hands. And the natives 
were handsomer than any other race on earth, proud 
and reserved, yet friendly and obliging. 

Gauguin had had thoughts of going there before, 
and now the longing came on him again. He watched 
attentively every boat which drew near the coast 
under full sail. 

Only when he was there and could begin his work 
again would he be able to take advantage of the 
rather more favourable breeze which seemed to 
reach him from his native land. At any rate his im- 
mediate future was assured j what would happen be- 
yond that, time would show. The optimist in him was 
not yet buried 5 he must be brought back to life. The 
latest letters from Daniel were of great assistance. A 
rich wine-grower, Monsieur Fayet, who painted a 
little himself, was showing a great interest in his pic- 
tures. When once the private buyers had made their 
appearance, he would be able to tighten up his terms 
with the picture dealers. 

Farewell, Tahiti. A new life was about to begin on 
the most beautiful island of the vast Pacific. 



THE Marquesas Islands lie in the midst of the 
Pacific, some seven hundred miles from Tahiti; far 
out of the usual steamer tracks, lonelier than any 
other group of islands in the great ocean, they rise to 
a height of four thousand feet in bold and majestic 
outlines. Until about the middle of last century, 
when the French annexed them, they had only been 
visited casually by white men. A strong and hand- 
some Maori race, numbering about ten thousand, was 
in possession, living as fishermen and hunters and on 
the fruits which abounded in the wide valleys among 
the mountains. By this time, forty years or more 
after the French had taken possession of the island 
and made it monastic property, the native population 
had dwindled to barely two thousand souls. Christian 
morality, which was authoritatively asserted by the 
Catholic missionaries, had weakened the resistance 
of these children of nature to their only dangerous 
enemies, leprosy and syphilis, which the Europeans 
had brought with them. The women had become 


barren and the men had lost their zest as hunters, now 
that they had to work for a foreign master. Broadly 
speaking, all property interests were in the hands of 
the Church 5 the struggle between civilization and 
the native population proceeded silently. The vigi- 
lance of Christian morality took care that natural in- 
stincts were kept in check within the framework of 
the Catholic Church. Ignorant of its meaning, the 
natives chanted their Te Deum as an elegy over their 
own race. 

As soon as Gauguin landed at Atuana, the capital, 
which was situated on the largest island, Hiva-oa, he 
was shown the reverse side of the country in which 
he had been longing to find peace and quiet and re- 
newed activity. 

" Things had reached such a pitch that I said to 
myself it was time to make for a simpler country with 
not so much officialdom. And I thought of packing 
up and going to the Marquesas, the promised land, 
where estates, food, and poultry could be had for the 
asking and where you had a gendarme as gentle as a 
lamb to show you round. 

" Promptly, with an easy mind, innocent as a vir- 
gin taking the veil, I embarked and arrived in peace 
at Atuana, the chief town of Hiva-oa. 

cc I had to climb down very considerably. The ant 
is not given to lending, whatever her other faults may 
be } and I had the look of a grasshopper that had been 
singing all the summer. 


" On arriving I was met with the news that no 
land was to be leased or sold except by the mission, 
and even there it was doubtful. The bishop was away 
and I had to wait a month 5 my trunks and a whole 
cargo of building timber were left on the beach. 

" During this month, as you may imagine, I went 
to mass every Sunday, being obliged to play the part 
of a good Catholic and an enemy of the Protestants. 
My reputation was made, and Monseigneur, never 
suspecting my hypocrisy, was kind enough (since it 
was I) to sell me a little plot covered with pebbles 
and scrub at the price of 650 francs. I set to work 
with a will and, thanks again to some men recom- 
mended by the bishop, I was quickly housed. 

<c There is something to be said for hypocrisy, 

a When once my hut was finished, I thought no 
more of fighting the Protestant pastor, who, by the 
way, is a well-bred young man and very liberal- 
minded; nor had I any thoughts of returning to the 

Gauguin's hut was situated close to the high-road 
and in a fairly populous region, but it was on marshy 
ground at the bottom of a stony scree and hidden 
from the road by thick bushes. He had therefore 
built the hut on strong piles, high enough above the 
ground to give room underneath for a stable, a cart- 
shed and a tool-house. A steep and primitive flight of 
stairs led up to a little veranda in front of the house 
itself, which measured ten yards by three and a half, 


with a sloping roof thatched with palm-leaves. The 
front wall was of woodwork, but the others were built 
of perpendicular bamboo canes, so that the breeze 
could blow through them and the moonbeams could 
play their vivo at night. A large side window pro- 
vided a good light for the long room. At the back of 
the house was a little bedroom, just big enough to 
take a bed, a bedside table, a chair, and a wash-stand. 
The studio contained only the barest necessities, a 
table and a couple of chairs, bast mats on the floor, 
and the indispensable easel. Meals were taken on the 

The eczema had spread 5 he had difficulty in walk- 
ing and usually had to ride when he went about. And 
when the pains in his leg and foot were too severe 
he drove in a long, low four-wheeled cart he had 
built, enabling him to sit back with his legs ex- 

He had little intercourse with the Europeans, but 
on the other hand it was not long before he got in 
touch with the natives. 

The very first day after the house was finished, 
as Gauguin sat on his veranda sunning himself, naked 
except for the pareo about his loins, his neighbour 
Tioka came up, full of confidence, and offered his 
help; and Gauguin knew by experience that this 
help would cost him infinitely less than any he might 
get from the mission. No claim was made on his 
gratitude nor was there any interference with his 



desire to live in his own way. But at the same time 
he had no doubt that the intimate relations he wished 
to establish with the natives would not be looked 
upon with favour by the ministers of the Church. 
The first duty of a priest in the colonies is to watch 
over the virtue of others. But Gauguin was in fight- 
ing trim, fully prepared to be a guardian of morality 
in his own way, as a decided opponent of hypocrisy 
and its poisonous effect on the healthy and genuine 
nature of the Maori. 

" A hen came to call and that started the war. 

a When I say a hen I am speaking modestly 5 as a 
matter of f act, all the hens arrived, without any in- 
vitation on my part. 

" Monseigneur is a buck-rabbit, whereas I am an 
old cock, pretty tough and fairly well up to the ropes. 
If I say that the rabbit began it I am speaking the 
truth. Trying to put me under a vow of chastity! 
That's a little too strong ; can't have any of that, 
my dear. 

"To cut two splendid pieces of rosewood and 
carve them in the Marquesan fashion was child's 
play to me. One represented a horned devil (Pere 
Paillard). The other a charming woman, flowers in 
her hair. It was enough to call her Therese for every- 
one without exception, even the school-children, to 
see the allusion to this famous love-affair. 

" If it's a myth, it was not I who invented it. 

" My word, how we gossip here! If ever I return 


to Paris I shall be fit to take a place as concierge 
and read the feuilleton of the Petit Journal every 

a For that matter, no conversation is possible here 
except gossiping and obscenities; from the very 
cradle the children are up to snuff. To tell the truth, 
it is always the same thing, like one's daily bread. 

" It is not always witty, but it gives one a relief 
after one's work; frivolity of mind and body. The 
women are venal and make no bones about it. Be- 
sides, this gives you an escape from tiresome aus- 
terity, and from the ugly hypocrisy which makes 
people so wicked. 

" An orange and a sidelong glance; that's enough. 

" The orange of which I am speaking varies from 
one to two francs ; it's hardly worth while denying 
oneself. One can easily be a little Sardanapalus with- 
out going bankrupt. 

" No doubt the reader will be asking for the idyll, 
because you can't have a book without an idyll. 

" This is not a book. . . . 

" I asked the native interpreter: c My boy, how 
do you say " an idyll " in the Marquesan language? y 
And he replied: < What a joker you are! ' Pursuing 
my investigations, I said to him: * What is your word 
for " virtue "? ' And the honest fellow answered 
with a laugh: ' Do you take me for an idiot? ' 

" The pastor himself says that it's a sin. And the 



women, like frightened deer, seem to say with theit 
velvet eyes: * That's not true.' A Parisienne would 
say: c Talk away! ' 

cc I know very well that at home, in Paris or in 
the provinces, retired officials will tell you strange 
yarns. Don't believe a word of themj here the mon- 
sters are natural enough. They see quite well, though 
without showing it, that our uniform caps are ridicu- 
lous and that we are a lot of beasts if we make out 
they are not* 

a They promise, say the women, and they don't 
keep their promises. In other words, that won't go 

" Apart from this they snap their fingers at us 
all the time. 

a If you should come across, at the Helder or any 
other pot-house, a colonial Governor called Ed. 
Petit, take a good look at him, he's a queer bird. 

" Imagine it! when he came to the Marquesas, 
long ago, as purser of the Hugon^ he made a good 
many marriages a la Loti, and being proud of one of 
these wives, he thought he would treat himself to 
the head of his mother-in-law, who was residing a 
few feet below the soil in this charming island that 
they call Taoata. 

" They scratched away and disinterred her, and 
when our purser wanted to carry off the famous head, 
his father-in-law called out: c How many piastres? ' 

" c It's priceless,' replied our witty purser. No- 


body is more obstinate than a father-in-law who de- 
mands piastres, and the famous head was restored to 
its eternal home. 

" Like Hop-o'-my-Thumb, our purser inadvert- 
ently strewed little pebbles to show the way and at 
night carried off the coveted head. 

" The missionary (a look-out man who misses 
nothing) made a written complaint to the captain of 
the Hugon y who furiously informed our purser that 
a mother-in-law was a sacred thing. . . . 

" When up for his examination at the ficole 
Coloniale, he was given this question: c How do you 
set about balancing a budget? * 

" Answer: * That's quite simple, you tear it up.' 

" That's your colonizer! . . . 

" An American paper informs us that the mur- 
dered President Mac Lean \jic\ died, in the opinion 
of the physicians, from want of vitality! ! 

" Here a question of procedure arises. Want of 
vitality: isn't this a formal inaccuracy? And in that 
case wouldn't one have a chance of upsetting it in the 
Court of Cassation? 

" This extraordinary Governor whom they call 
Ed. Petit writes to the Minister: ' In the Marquesas 
the native race is fast disappearing. Wouldn't it be 
as well to send us the surplus from Martinique? * 

" This was written after the volcanic disaster. 

" It reminds one rather of that aide-de-camp who 
went in search of the Emperor Napoleon I: c Sire, 



a hundred thousand men are waiting for you below. 
Wouldn't it be as well to bring them up by the little 
private staircase? * To which Napoleon I answered: 
c Tell them to come in, my good man!, * 

u If you come across this Ed. Petit, at the Helder 
or any of those places^ or even at the Folies-Bergere, 
tell him he takes the prize." 

The two figures, Pere Paillard and Therese, 
adorned the posts of the gate leading from the pub- 
lic road to Gauguin's property. The natives never 
omitted to show his reverence the respect they had 
been taught to pay to his person; and now they paid 
the same respect to his image, the women saluting 
him with a cordiality which the priest would have 
preferred to avoid in broad daylight. Gauguin had 
not been many months in Hiva-oa before the na- 
tive population of the island quite understood that 
" Koke " was a man in whom they could confide 
absolutely without running any risk. And he saw 
more and more clearly that he ought to protect these 
handsome and lovable children of nature against the 
instinct of his own race to exploit them clandestinely 
while openly degrading them by systematically try- 
ing to eradicate the culture to which the Maoris had 
attained through their natural sense of beauty and 
entirely natural instincts and impulses. As a race they 
possessed a beauty of their own, resulting from cen- 
turies of intimate association with natural surround- 
ings that made great demands on their physical 


adroitness and presence of mind. In return this na- 
ture has been generous and has spared them lurking 
dangers j these people therefore enjoy nature and 
their own life in it, and their creative imagination 
has made of it an idol for their adoration. It revolted 
Gauguin that this should be destroyed by the ruth- 
less belief of his own race in its superiority, without 
its offering anything of value in return. It revolted 
him because as an artist he saw something in himself 
which was reflected in these people's proud and 
naive dignity, in their frank and simple nature and 
lively humanity. And to this was added their plastic 
beauty, the sure and graceful rhythm of their move- 
ments and the expressiveness with which their every 
mood was shown in their features. 

The quiet and stubborn fight the Catholic priest- 
hood carried on against the Maoris was an attack 
not only on them, but also on the best instincts in 
himself, in which his art had struck fertile roots. 
And that was why he took up the fight. 

All his life Gauguin's attitude to religious and 
political opinions had been one of indifference. To 
his mind it was all a question of the right of the in- 
dividual to live his own life without being brought 
into conflict with his own conscience. 

The priesthood in the Marquesas regarded such 
views as anarchical} but their guilty conscience made 
them dread any outside interference in their isolated 
existence, which facilitated their arbitrary exercise 

-26 1 - 


of power. They appeared to shut their eyes, but 
were watching carefully for an opportunity of in- 

" It does not seem to be suspected in Europe that 
a very advanced decorative art exists among the 
Maoris, both in New Zealand and in the Marquesas. 
The clever critic is mistaken when he takes all this 
for Papuan art! 

" The Marquesan especially has an incomparable 
sense of decoration. Give him an object of any geo- 
metrical shape, even distorted, and he will succeed 
in making a harmonious whole without leaving the 
slightest break or incongruity. The basis of it is 
the human body or the face above all, the face. 
Where one expected a strange geometrical figure, 
one is astonished to find a face. Always the same 
thing and yet never the same. 

" Today no money could buy any of those beau- 
tiful objects in bone, tortoise-shell or iron- wood that 
they used to make. The gendarmerie have stolen 
them all and sold them to amateur collectors, and 
yet the administration has never thought for a mo- 
ment of opening a museum in Tahiti for all this 
Oceanic art, a thing which it might so easily have 

cc Not one of these people, who call themselves 
well-informed, has ever had an idea of the value 
of the Marquesan artists. There is not a wife of the 
humblest official who would not exclaim on seeing 


it: c But this is horrible! It's barbarous! ' Barba- 
rous! that's their cry. 

" They are the people who mar any festivity in 
these countries with their out-of-date fashions, ri- 
diculous from head, to foot, vulgar hips^ tight-laced 
figures, sham jewellery, elbows that threaten or 
bulge like sausages. But they are white, and they 
carry their stomachs high. 

" Those of the population who are not white are 
really elegant. Our critical gentleman is a long way 
out of it when he says with disdain: c Negresses 5 
unless it is I who have been mistaken in describing 
and drawing them. 

" One man says: c They are Papuans '; another: 
c They are Negresses.' This is enough to give me 
serious doubts of my claims as an artist. Loti, you 
say? Thank you, that's very nice. 

a Let us just determine the designation of this 
race, as I see it, and let us call it the Maori race, 
leaving it to someone else, more or less of a photog- 
rapher, to describe and paint it later on with his 
more civilized and accurate art. 

" I say c really elegant * and I mean it. Every 
woman makes her gown, plaits her hat, and trims 
it with ribbons in a way any Paris milliner might be 
proud of, arranges a bouquet with the taste of the 
boulevard de la Madeleine. Their handsome figure 
sways gracefully under the lace and muslin chemise. 
The hands that appear from their sleeves are essen- 



tially aristocratic; their broad and powerful feet, 
unshod, will not trouble us for long, for it will soon 
be the boots that offend our eyes. Another thing in 
the Marquesas that sometimes offends the prudes 
is that all these girls smoke pipes the calumet, 
no doubt, to those who are on the look-out for bar- 

" Be this as it may, the Maori woman could never 
be dowdy or ridiculous, even if she tried, since she 
has within her that sense of decorative beauty which 
I admire in Marquesan art, after having studied it. 
But is it nothing but that? Does a pretty mouth count 
for nothing, with a smile that shows such beautiful 
teeth? They talk about Negresses! What nonsense! 

" And that pretty breast with its pink buds that 
will not submit to the corset. What distinguishes the 
Maori woman from all others and often leads one to 
mistake her for a man is the proportions of her figure. 
A Diana the huntress with broad shoulders and nar- 
row hips. 

" However thin her arm may be, the bony struc- 
ture is scarcely apparent, the lines are soft and supple. 
Have you noticed our Western girls at a ball, with 
gloves up to the elbow, skinny arms, all elbow, ugly 
in fact, with the forearm thicker than the upper 

" I say Western women advisedly, for the Maori's 
arm is the same as that of all Eastern women 
only stronger. 


" Again, have you noticed at the theatre the legs 
of the ballet-girls? Those enormous thighs (nothing 
but thighs) , the huge knees, turned in. This is prob- 
ably due to an exaggerated expansion of the joint 
of the femur. Whereas in the Eastern woman, and 
especially the Maori, the leg from hip to foot gives 
a beautifully straight line. The thigh is very pro- 
nounced, but not in its breadth, and this gives it a 
roundness and avoids that hollow which makes us 
compare some of our women to a pair of tweezers. 

" To return to Marquesan art. This art has dis- 
appeared, thanks to the missionaries. In the judg- 
ment of the missionaries sculpture and decoration 
were fetishism, offensive to the God of the Chris- 

" That was the whole thing, and the unhappy 
people have submitted. 

" The younger generation, from the very cradle, 
chants the canticles in a French that nobody under- 
stands, recites the catechism, and then 

cc Nothing as you may well understand. 

" If a young girl binds the flowers she has plucked 
into a pretty and artistic wreath and puts it on her 
head, Monseigneur is furious! 

" Soon the Marquesan will be incapable of climb- 
ing a coconut-tree, incapable of going up the moun- 
tain for the wild bananas on which he might live. 
The child, kept at school, deprived of physical exer- 
cise, made to wear clothes (for decency's sake), 



grows up delicate, unable to bear a night in the 
mountains. They have taken to wearing shoes, and 
their feet, now tender, will no longer be fit for 
rough paths or for crossing the pebbly beds of tor- 

cc Thus we are witnessing the sad spectacle of the 
extinction of this race, now largely , consumptive, 
with sterile loins and ovaries ruined by mercury." 

The Marquesas did not possess the same economic 
interest for the French as did Tahiti; private per- 
sons were not numerous among the immigrants. The 
European life of the colony was dominated by a 
comparatively small number of officials and by the 
priests 5 as it often happened that months went by 
without a ship visiting the islands, and as the native 
population never gave trouble or did more work than 
was required of them, the course of daily life was 
calm and peaceful. Among themselves the natives 
lived in perfect amity. If anyone missed a hen or a 
pig, which, however, rarely happened, it was talked 
about today and forgotten tomorrow. Though jeal- 
ousy was not unknown, it was still rather uncommon. 
In any case the natives were decidedly averse to 
applying to the authorities about their wrongs, and 
the latter on their side shut their eyes to everything 
that did not interfere with their own existence, or 
with the work of the Church among the Christian 
community of the islands. After the nervous agita- 
tion of his life in Tahiti, Gauguin here found peace 


and rest, which he sorely needed. The eczema in his 
legs and feet caused him great pain and aggravated 
his sleeplessness, and it was accompanied by frequent 
heart attacks and fits of morbid anxiety, which could 
only be quieted by alcohol and occasionally only with 
the aid of morphine. 

cc I have now resumed work fairly seriously, 
though still unwell. You can't imagine what a peace- 
ful life I lead here in my solitude, entirely alone, 
surrounded by foliage. This is rest, and I needed it 
badly, away from all those officials in Tahiti. I con- 
gratulate myself daily on my decision j for another 
thing, life is cheaper here. I pay 60 centimes for an 
ordinary chicken, and now and then I buy a forty- 
pound pig for 6 or 7 francs. Wine and a few other 
imported articles are really the only things that cost 
money. " 

As usual after moving to a new place, Gauguin 
had to get accustomed to his surroundings before he 
could begin to work. And this time it took longer 
than ever before. Nearly six months had gone by 
without his having seriously handled a paint-brush. 
The delay was due not only to his need of a thorough 
rest, but to his new surroundings, which were in 
many ways different from those in Tahiti. He no 
longer lived in sight of the sea; his hut was situated 
in a fairly large and fertile valley, above which the 
mountains were boldly outlined against the sky. 

The Marquesan women were taller, handsomer, 


and lighter in colour 5 their bodies had a golden sheen 
which was very beautiful, and their firm, compact 
frames, even more than those of their Tahitian sis- 
ters, seemed carved out of a block. Whether walking, 
resting, or disrobing, there was a languid rhythm 
in all their movements, which was indescribably 
charming. It was only after long and careful study 
that he felt he really grasped them; they always kept 
at a certain distance, which relegated him to the 
position of an attentive observer, intimately as he 
imagined himself to know them. He often felt like 
one lying in wait to steal their souls, as they listened 
intently to the tales of ancient deeds from the lips of 
one of their elders tales of the days when the war- 
rior ate his fallen foe in order to secure his soul, 
but also because the Maori's flesh was good to eat, 
whereas that of the white man was not much as 
the elder in question could declare from experience. 
It then became the duty of the dead man's relatives 
to get hold of the man who had eaten him, for then 
they could assimilate his soul as well as their kins- 
man's. That would give them power over their own 
clan and over its enemies. 

The old man who enunciated these views looked 
significantly at Gauguin. cc You are one of us, so I 
should like to eat you; but you are good, so I shall 
not have a chance. But I will put a taboo on you and 
your house, so that you will be protected against evil 
powers. The good powers will befriend you." 



It happened now and then that on coming out on 
his veranda in the morning, Gauguin found a slaugh- 
tered hen hanging there. He looked round, trying 
to penetrate the thick bush that encircled the hut, 
and raised his hand in salute. 

He had approached nearer to them, his kindly 
feeling for them was great, and his zest for work 
was awakened. The landscape was spread out before 
his eyes, its colours shining in the warm sunlight, 
and in the flickering shade of the thicket little Vai- 
tauni in an unguarded moment was washing her 
linen. Her slender, compact body shone against the 
green foliage, which was flecked with patches of 
dark red. Was there perhaps a gendarme lurking in 
the bushes? If so, there would be a terrible fine to 
pay, or the price might be Vaitauni herself. 

Thought gave a dramatic beauty to the picture, 
and nature acquired a majesty by the power it exer- 
cised over the minds of men, both for good and for 
evil. Hoe! Vaitauni whisked round, crouched down, 
and stared towards the clearing. She discovered him, 
drew herself up to her full height, and proudly ap- 
proached his hut. The green shadows on her wet linen 
reproduced the soft lines of her body and brought out 
the warm glow of its colour. The smooth black hair, 
which gave a blue reflection in the strong light, held 
closely to the fine, simple shape of the head, spread- 
ing out on the neck and emphasizing the moulding 
and proud carriage of the round throat. 


" Vahiae y I want to paint you." 

" Aitoy tane." 

And other women came up, at first attracted by 
curiosity, later because they liked to visit this seri- 
ous, silent man, who looked at them in a way they 
were so unused to, with an observant eye that was 
at the same time tender and intimate. And they liked 
to deck themselves when they came to see him, for 
he appreciated this. They soon, discovered, too, that 
he was as fond of flowers as they were 5 they brought 
him bouquets and arranged them in his glass. And 
he painted these when his sufferings forced him to 
suspend more exacting tasks, as they very often did. 
In fact, the pains sometimes overcame him to such 
an extent, accompanied by recurring heart attacks, 
that he wished himself back in France, where he 
could receive better attention. And this longing was 
increased when the irregular palpitations gave him 
an instinctive presentiment of death. Moreover, his 
affairs at home seemed to be going better, so that, 
although no doubt Daniel was arranging everything 
for the best, there might be no harm in his taking a 
hand himself, which was difficult at this distance 
and with the irregular mail service. 

And yet how calm and secure was his life in the 
islands! If only he could get well and wring the 
necks of the cursed priests and gendarmes, this would 
be the best place for him, since he no longer had a 
home in Europe and therefore no interest in a future 


there. His eyes fell on the little morocco case in 
which he now kept the photographs of his children. 
Perhaps after all 

The thoughts chased each other in his mind, like 
sunshine and showers at home. 

" My dear Daniel, 

" The mail-boat for the Marquesas having taken 
a header into the sea, they have had the amusing idea 
of leaving us 85 days without mails, without news, 
without sugar or rice, etc. An obliging schooner has 
brought us a few letters, one from you, one from 
Fayet, two from Vollard. The last-named asks for 
some sculpture for himself. I have replied that he 
should apply to you. From the tone of his letter (I 
know the wily gentleman) I can guess that his busi- 
ness is looking up, as far as I am concerned, and that 
he finds an increasing demand for my production. 
It must be admitted that he is intelligent and that 
he is in touch with the amateurs of good painting. I 
am strongly recommending him to take the clay 
statue that you have or perhaps it is still with 
Fayet a t a <p r ice of 2,000 francs. Although I must 
say I should have preferred it to form part of a seri- 
ous collection, such as that of Fayet, even at 1,500 

" The exhibition at Beziers' was no good. It can't 
be helped, and that's all there is to be said. 

" As regards the picture which N has on ap- 


proval, are you not afraid that one day he may be 
astonished at the frice when compared with those 
paid by Fayet? these differences in price are a 
very delicate question. Naturally you must take this 
merely as an observation on my part, for I have told 
you before : everything that you do will always be for 
the best. 

cc By the way, Fayet writes that he hopes next year 
to arrange a very important exhibition of my works. 
Excellent! ! I don't recommend a great number of 
canvases, but I want particular attention paid to their 
quality (fortunately you are there to see to this). 
If possible, the big picture which is at Bordeaux. Of 
the things Z has I can see nothing but the wood- 
carding. If possible, the picture Nevermore from 
Delius. Nothing from Brittany (my work from Brit- 
tany is digested, whereas Tahiti has to be swallowed 
and sold). You know the public; they will say at 
once: c What a pity he didn't stay in Brittany! ' You 
understand. For that matter, who knows if I 
ought not to be there now? Because if I can't be 
cured of this chronic eczema in both feet, which 
gives me so much pain, I should be better for a 
change of air. Then I might settle in your part of 
the world, the south of France, where I could take 
a run into Spain in search of new subjects. Bull- 
fights, Spaniards with their hair plastered with lard, 
it's been done, and done to death; all the same, it's 
queer how differently I imagine them. 


cc What a shame, though, to leave such a beauti- 
ful country as the Marquesas! 

cc From now on I am going to put aside anything 
I may get beyond the 350 francs from Vollard; this 
I can do without any trouble, for now I am not only 
paying my way but have a little to the good; besides, 
I can live very well, without stinting myself, on 250 
francs, as living is a good deal cheaper here than in 

" In his letter to me Fayet speaks of you and 
your talent, and how right he is! Beware of rely- 
ing on your own opinion (one never knows oneself 
thoroughly) . You can no longer put a figure on its 
feet? let them lie down; that will give them a 
rest, and you too; and one fine day you will easily 
get them to stand up again. 

" Meanwhile continue to enjoy life peacefully; 
the animal element in us is not to be despised in the 
way they try to make out. Those devils of Greeks, 
who understood everything, pictured Antseus recov- 
ering his strength by touching the earth. The 
earth, that is our animality, believe me." 

Gauguin en j oyed outward peace in the Marquesas, 
he was not worried by financial questions, life was 
simpler and easier here than in Tahiti, but at the 
same time his loneliness was greater. When the pains 
kept him awake at night and only stimulants could 
quiet his nerves by day, he often tried to bring life 


into this loneliness. He saw himself and his work in 
relation to the development which had taken place in 
French art, and saw how he stood alone and how 
isolated his work appeared, since he had never al- 
lowed its fundamental thought to be affected by the 
social ideas of the time, which aimed at converting 
universal emotions into common property under 
some label or other. 

In his painting, on the other hand, the funda- 
mental idea was the assertion of the right of the in- 
dividual to live his own life, and his purpose was to 
erect on this foundation a work which should have a 
meaning and a beauty capable of convincing. Many 
a time when his vision and his taste for work were 
impaired by illness, he would be seized by a misgiv- 
ing that perhaps his powers would not last out until 
he had reached his goal. And in his solitude there 
was no voice to give him a word of encouragement. 

With dimmed eyes and a throbbing heart he 
looked out over the valley, followed its undulations 
up towards the cliff, and paused at the huge white 
cross which stood on the edge of a plateau dominating 
the district with its cold and glaring outline against 
the face of the rock. It stood in the cemetery as a 
promise of eternal life in the bosom of the Church, 
but to him it was a terrible reminder of impotence 
and death. 

Formerly the thought of death had never caused 
him pain 5 rather the contrary. But now it seemed 


to be lying in wait to catch him unprepared before he 
had completed his work. 

" I only ask for two years of health and not too 
many money worries, which now have too much of 
a hold on my nervous temperament, in order to at- 
tain to a certain maturity in my art. I feel that / am 
right in art, but shall I have strength to express it 
convincingly? In any case I shall have done my duty, 
and if my works do not last, at any rate the memory 
will persist of an artist who liberated painting from 
many of the faults of its academic past and from the 
delusions of Symbolism (another form of sentimen- 

talism) ." 

The thought of going back to France now gave 
rise to feelings quite different from those which had 
accompanied his return in 1 8 9 3 . At that time he had 
thought himself strong enough to be able to assert 
himself with the aid of the personal character of his 
work and to break down the barriers which a civi- 
lized community always sets up against anything in- 
dependent and unusual. But he had not reckoned 
with a new barrier that had been raised, compounded 
of a fresh and tenacious notion which went by the 
name of I 3 Art nouveau. 

Now that he was possibly nearing his journey's 
end, his only thought was of simplifying and clarify- 
ing his art, so as to disengage it from the mysticism 
and the many misunderstandings that clung to it. 

And that clung no less to his life, which had merely 



been a struggle to live in freedom without regard 
to conventions and prejudices. 

a I have endeavoured to fight against all those 
parties which in every age assemble about a dogma, 
leading astray not only the painters, but also the con- 
noisseurs. When will these people understand the 
meaning of the word c Liberty ? ? " 

A struggle which concerned not only himself but 
the whole of humanity, and which he felt sure would 
one day lead to the acknowledgment of the rights 
of the individual, when once class and sectarian feel- 
ing were played out, so that intellectual and cultural 
arrogance no longer had them to juggle with. 

This game was still going on and was nowhere 
more flourishing than in the Marquesas, where a 
little band of Europeans in the name of civilization 
were trying forcibly to strangle the instincts of a 
proud and handsome primitive people, while playing 
with them at the same time as an outlet for their own 
private vices, for the satisfaction of which the de- 
spised Maori was not judged to be unsuitable. 

By means of taxes and fines for the smallest de- 
linquency the gendarmerie forced the natives to work 
for them and for the Church, and these naive and 
easy-going people, who understood nothing of Eu- 
ropean duplicity, were far too ready to fall into the 
trap when the gendarmerie was in need of funds or 
the individual gendarme of a little entertainment. 
In the name of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity a 


veiled form o slavery was carried on, to which the 
Church gave its blessing,, graciously accepting the 
offerings it entailed. But this revolted Gauguin both 
as a man and as a Frenchman. He saw with contempt 
how his own race dishonoured itself by its hypocrisy 
and ruthlessness, and he looked with infinite sorrow 
on the degradation of a beautiful and natural race, 
which was being driven out of existence, without 
submitting, without complaining, simply without 
understanding anything about it. 

Seething with emotion he wrote to the colonial 
inspectors, who visited the Marquesas every eight 
months to investigate the affairs and administration 
of the islands. In preparation for their visit he gave 
them an unvarnished account of all he had witnessed. 
He had seen so much actual and palpable villainy 
and injustice committed against the natives that he 
had no difficulty in drawing up a defence of them 
and their existence and an indictment against the 
French colonial administration. He was a warm de- 
fender and a cold accuser. 

" What a strange irony there is in this hypocritical 
regard for Liberty, Equality, Fraternity under the 
French flag when one sees it in the light of this re- 
volting spectacle of men who are no longer anything 
but the objects of all sorts of extortions and are left 
to the mercy of the gendarme. And yet they are 
forced to shout: c Long live the Governor, long live 

the Republic! ' 



"When the Fourteenth of July comes round, 
there will be 400 francs for distribution among them, 
whereas, besides their taxes, direct and indirect, they 
will have paid over 30,000 francs in fines. 

<c We colonists therefore consider this a dishonour 
to the French Republic, and you need not be sur- 
prised if some foreigner should say to you : c I'm glad 
Pm not a Frenchman/ while the Frenchman will 
say: c I wish the Marquesas belonged to America! ' 

" What do we ask, after all? That justice may be 
justice, not an empty word, but effectively, and that 
to achieve this we may have competent men of good 
feeling sent here to study the question on the spot 
and then to act with energy ... in the full light 
of day. 

" When the governors chance to pass this way they 
only come to take photographs, and when any re- 
spectable person ventures to address them, asking 
them to repair an injustice, he is treated as guilty of 
rudeness and deserving of punishment. 

" That, gentlemen, is all I have to say to you. I do 
not know whether it will interest you, or whether 
you will say with Pangloss : 

" c Everything is for the best, in the best of all 
possible worlds. 5 " 

The gendarmes were soon made to feel that a 
watchful eye was following their movements, even 
in the thickest bush. But they shrugged their shoul- 
ders na tu. It's only that mad painter, sick and 


drunken too, they say, though he never shows it. On 
the other hand, you can see it by his pictures. He's 
no business of ours; even if the silly monkeys love 
their Koke and take his part, as he takes theirs, he 
won't catch us. They meant to pinch him before the 
inspectors arrived. What witnesses had he? The na- 
tive interpreter would not dare to translate anything 
that went against the gendarmes; he could be coaxed 
and scared by turns give him some drink on the 
sly and then threaten to report him. He could be 

But when Gauguin came riding or driving along 
the road, clad in his pareo y with his cloak slung over 
his back and his cap drawn tightly about his skull, 
they bowed humbly with a guilty conscience. in reply 
to his cold and silent salute. And this made them hate 
him. The subservience that is due to a sense of shame 
is hard to bear and not easily forgotten. 

The other colonists on the island were either in- 
different or wished to keep in with the gendarmes on 
account of liquor-smuggling. The Catholic mission 
saw in him a danger. Paul Vernier, the Protestant 
missionary, alone watched the silent and unap- 
proachable man with profound admiration and re- 
spect, and he alone fully understood the value of the 
frank and confident look with which the natives met 

But Vernier's own position was a lonely one in the 
colony, where he devoted himself entirely to the care 
J ' 


of the sick and those who needed his aid. It was with 
grave concern that he saw the signs of advancing ill- 
ness in Gauguin's features. But from his conversa- 
tions with the artist he had found that Gauguin 
never talked about himself,, but only about his art and 
the Maoris. And he smiled indulgently when others 
spoke of the painter's inordinate egoism. 

Gauguin made slow progress in his work j his ill- 
ness kept him idle for many weeks whenever a few 
days' respite had allowed him to throw himself into 
it intently. His eyesight was impaired and unable to 
bear the strong light, and his hand was no longer so 
sure. And then the pains returned. He could only 
allay them by resorting to stimulants, which became 
more and more indispensable to him. The unpro- 
ductive weeks grew longer and more frequent, the 
days of work fewer and shorter. 

By the beginning of the year 1903 he could only 
move about with the greatest difficulty and could 
only paint for very brief spells; a snow landscape 
from Brittany stood on his easel. His memories over- 
whelmed him in his solitude, and he began to write 
Avant et Apres. Before he became an artist and 
human, and after. 

" Stray notes without sequence, like dreams, like 
life itself, all made up of fragments. And, since many 
have borne a share in it, a love of beautiful things 
seen in the houses of others. 

" Things that may appear childish when written, 


sometimes for one's own pastime, sometimes in order 
to classify one's favourite ideas though they may 
be foolish ones distrusting a bad memory, and all 
of them leading to the vital centre of my art. For if 
a work of art were a work of chance, all these notes 
would be futile. 

a I consider that the thought which may have 
guided my work, or a part of it, is connected, in some 
very mysterious way, with a thousand other thoughts, 
either my own or derived from others. I can recall 
days when my imagination strayed and I made long 
studies, often sterile, more often disturbing: a black 
cloud has appeared, darkening the horizon; confu- 
sion takes possession of my soul and I cannot see my 
way. But if in other hours of bright sunlight, with a 
clear mind, I have fastened upon some fact, some 
vision, something I have read, ought I not to preserve 
a brief record of it? 

" Sometimes I have gone very far back, farther 
even than the horses of the Parthenon . . . as far 
as the good hobby-horse of my childhood. 

" I have lingered with Corot's nymphs, dancing 
in the sacred groves of Ville-d'Avray. 

" This is not a book." 

All fugitive memories, which in all likelihood 
would never find a continuation in his life ; the thread 
was to be severed, but the memories should be put on 
record, and his own place in them. There remained 
only his art; no doubt must be left as to its aim, nor 



as to the conditions in which it had been produced. 
Conditions which had been largely brought about by 
the changing and often disastrous circumstances of 
his life and by many conflicting elements in his own 

Whether he was destined to stay in the islands or 
to return to France, the reminiscences of Before and 
After must be completed. He was to begin a new ex- 
istence. Out here he could make no further progress 
in his art; he must go home, to find rest and peace. 

And according to Daniel's last letter there was a 
hope that he would be able to find this rest and the 
medical care which he so sorely needed. It was now 
March, so he would reach home by the spring; all 
that troubled him now was the thought of abandon- 
ing his dear friends the natives to the mercy of the 

A summons to appear in court recalled him forci- 
bly to the present. He was charged by the lieutenant 
of gendarmes with having wrongfully accused this 
government official of breaches of duty. He knew the 
danger this charge involved. All those of his own 
race would be against him. The gendarme would de- 
clare to the judge who knew nothing and had 
neither time nor inclination to familiarize himself 
with every case that if these people, these bandits, 
were not treated sternly, all the whites would be 
murdered. Gauguin had espoused their cause, and all 
his allegations were derived from the lips of these 


cannibals, who were incapable of uttering a word of 
honest French. He was a dangerous man. And Gau- 
guin knew at the same time that he could expect no 
pity on account of being a sick man and scarcely able 
to drag himself before the court. And yet he had the 
firmest belief in the justice of his cause and lived in 
a terrible state of tension and excitement while await- 
ing the trial. So much so that when the case came up 
he entirely lost his self-control. He was found guilty 
and sentenced. This was the last straw. 

" My dear Daniel, 

a I send you three pictures which you will proba- 
bly receive after your letter. Will you tell M. Fayet 
that this is a case of saving me? If he does not care 
for these pictures., let him choose others from those 
you have, or let him lend me 1,500 francs on any 
security he likes. This is why: I have just been the 
victim of a horrible piece of sharp practice. Fol- 
lowing on certain scandalous doings here in the Mar- 
quesas, I wrote to the Administrator, asking him to 
institute an inquiry. It had not occurred to me that 
the gendarmes were all in league with one another, 
that the Administrator would take the part of the 
Governor, and so on. Anyhow, the lieutenant de- 
manded a prosecution, and a rascal of a judge, acting 
under the orders of the Governor and of a petty at- 
torney whom I had treated rather roughly, sentenced 
me (press law of July ? 8 1 ), on account of a private 



letter, to three months' imprisonment and a fine of 
1,000 francs. I shall have to go to Tahiti to appeal. 
How much is that going to cost me? voyage, 
board and lodging, and, above all, lawyer** fees!! It 
means ruin and the complete break-up of my health. 

" It will be said that all my life I have been con- 
demned to fall, pick myself up, fall down again, etc. 
All my old energy is disappearing day by day 

" So act as quickly as you can, and please say to 
M. Fayet that I shall be eternally grateful to him. 

" Here is the mail at last: nothing yet from you. 
Three mails have come in without Vollard writing 
or sending me any money. At the moment he owes 
me 1,500 francs, plus the balance on the pictures I 
have sent him. This makes me a debtor for 1,400 
francs to the Societe Commerciale at the very mo- 
ment when I have to ask them for more money to go 
to Papeete, etc. I am very much afraid the bank will 
refuse me, and then I shall be really in the soup. If 
he is dead or has gone bankrupt, I hope you will have 
been informed. All these worries and uncertainties 
are killing me" 

Shortly after the decision of the court Gauguin 
had to send for Vernier; he could no longer walk. 
Vernier found him lying down, calmly smoking a 
cigarette, but the pain he suffered was reflected in 
his face. Both legs were swollen and inflamed with 
eczema. After examining him Vernier proposed the 


necessary treatment and offered to give it to him. 
Gauguin declined } he would manage it himself. In- 
stead he began to talk about his art and made some 
references to his affair with the gendarme. And the 
conversation calmed him. He smiled as Vernier took 
his leave. He was alone again, but every morning his 
native neighbour Tioka came to see him. Otherwise 
an untrustworthy Chinese boy was his only attend- 
ant. He wished it so, was unwilling to trouble anyone 
with his suff erings, would scarcely allow anyone to 
see them. When about ten days later Vernier came 
to see him again, he began at once to talk to him 
about art. It seemed as though the thought of it eased 
his pains and quieted his heart. 

Early in the morning of May 8th Gauguin sent 
Tioka to ask Vernier to come over. He complained of 
violent pains all over. He had had two fainting-fits 
during the night and was alarmed about them. He 
soon changed the subject to Flaubert's Salammbo y 
and an hour later he calmed down, telling Vernier 
that he felt better now and there was no cause for 

But at eleven o'clock the same morning the Chi- 
nese boy came running across to Vernier, crying out: 
" Come at once! The white man is dead! " When 
Vernier reached the hut, Tioka stood there weeping j 
and on seeing the Protestant pastor he flung himself 
upon his beloved friend and bit him in the thigh to 
bring him back to life. But that had no effect, and 



Vernier's efforts were also in vain. Gauguin was 
dead. Vernier laid him out on the couch. As he went 
away he heard Tioka ? s lament: 

cc Na mate Koke. Na pete enate. 

" Gauguin is dead. We are lost." 

2 $2 


Academic Colarassi, 43-4, 


Aimee, Mme, 18, 19 
Anani, 174 

Annah, 203, 217-18, 220 
Arosa, Gustave, 20, 22-3, 

40-1, 42 
Assommoir, L' (Zola), 


Aube, Mme, 31,37, 38,39 

Aube, Pere, 31, 35, 37, 39 

Aurier, Albert, 124, 137 

Avant etApres (Gauguin), 

286; quoted, 6, 8, 14- 

15, 16, 19, 64, 66, 89- 

93, 102, 104-6, 120-2, 

123-8, 137-8, 151-2, 

207, 221-6, 243, 259- 

60, 262-6, 268-72, 

283-4, 286-7 

Balzac, 33 

Barbey d'Aurevilly, 33 
Barres, 137 
Baudelaire, 50, 51, 137 

Baudry, 194 

Beethoven, 185 

Before and After (Gau- 
guin), see: Avant el 

Belle Angele, La (Gau- 
guin), 144 

Bernard, fimile, 117-18, 
191, 204 

Bernhardt, Sarah, 223 

Bertin (banking firm), 20 

Beziers, 277 

Bonnat, Leon, 75 

Borgias d'Aragon, 5, 6 

Bouillot, Paul, 45 

Cabanel, 69 

Calzado, 20, 34, 44-5, 78 
Caron, Mme, 201 
Carrier e, 137 

Cezanne, Paul, 53, 56, 60, 
^63, 64, 65, 73, 122, 252 
Cezanne, Paul, Jr., 65 
Champfleury, 51 
Chassagnol, Dr. de, 173 


Chazal, 5, 6, 7, 8, 14 

Chazal, Aline Marie, see 
Gauguin, Aline Marie 

Chazal, Flora Celestine 
Therese Henriette (nee 
Tristan), 5, 6-8, 9, 14 

Christ Crucified (Bonnat), 


Corot, 55, 287 
Courbet, 23, 69-70, 185 
Cuvier, 224, 227 

Daudet, 121 

David, Jacques Louis, 65 

Degas, 53-4, 56, 63, 67, 

73, 121, 204-5, 207, 

230, 252 

Delacroix, 23, 61, 63 
Delius, 278 

Dolent, Jean, 128, 145 
D'ou venous-nous? , . . 

( Gauguin ) , see : Whence 

do We Come? . . . 
Durand, Carolus, 102 
Durand-Ruel, 50, 52, 201, 

205-6, 210, 211, 223 
Durio, Paco, 220 

Echo de Paris, 144 
Enfantin, Pere, 6 
Escobar, 16 

Estrup, J. B., 28-9, 30, 85 
Estrup, Mme, 289, 30 
Etude de nu (Gauguin), 
see: Study of the Nude 
Expressionism, 134 

Fayet, 257, 277, 278, 279," 


Femme couchee (Le- 
febvre), 69 

Figaro, 52 

Flaubert, 291 

Fontainebleau school, 43 

Free Exhibition, Copen- 
hagen, 192, 199 

Gad, Aage, 25, 26 

Gad, Emilie (nee Lund), 

24-5, 26, 27, 28, 30 
Gad, Ingeborg, 25, 26-7 
Gad, Mette Sofie, see Gau- 
guin, Mette 
Gad, Pauline, 25, 267 
Gad, Theodor, 24, 30 
Gad, Theodor, Jr., 25, 26 
Gauguin, Aline, 45, 48, 

I39> HO, 141. 242-3, 

Gauguin, Aline Marie (nee 

Chazal), 4, 5, 8-10, n, 

12-15, 16-17, 20, 45, 

147,^ 205, 246 
Gauguin, Clovis (father of 

Paul), 4-5, 9, 10 
Gauguin, Clovis (son of 

Paul), 48, 57, 88, 89, 

96, 97, 98-9, 101, 102- 

4, 108, 140-1 
Gauguin, fimile, 42, 43, 45, 

48, 65, 139, 140, 141, 

Gauguin, fimile (son of 

Paul and Tehura), 

Gauguin, Eugene Henry 

Paul : birth, 3 ; ancestry, 


4-9; goes to Peru, 4-5, 
10, ii ; appearance and 
physique, 5, 9, 14* *li 
19, 20, 21, 109, 133, 
139; character, 5, 14, 
16, 22,32, 85-6, 128-9, 
142, 150-1; portrait by 
Laure, 9-10; childhood, 
9-i 7 33; return to 
France, 12; in Orleans, 
1 2-1 7; education, 13,16; 
relations with women, 
14-15, 17, 19, 3 2 > 33. 
36, 40, 144, 234, 253, 
255, 256, 274, 275-6, 
and see Gauguin, Mette, 
Juliette, Tehura, Titi; 
goes to sea, 17; in the 
merchant marine, 1820, 
212; voyage to Rio de 
Janeiro, 18-19; military 
service, 201 ; bank 
clerk, 22-3, 3 2 ~9 43> 
44-5, 47, 56-7, 58, 63; 
meets Mette Gad, 37- 
40; marriage, 401; 
married life, 41-3, 45* 
46-8, 57-8, 77^ 80-1; 
beginnings as 'artist, 42- 

4, 45-6, 48-9> 56-7; 
picture accepted for 
Salon, 44, 4^; begin- 
nings as sculptor, 45; 
artistic taste, 46, 61-2, 

64,65,75-6,86-7, I8 9i 
227, 280; exhibits at 
Salon des Independants, 
68-9, 76; leaves the 

bank, 76-9; moves to 
Rouen, 79, 80; goes to 
Denmark, 81; opinion 
of Denmark, 84, 89-93 ; 
political opinions, 867, 
252, 267, 282-4; returns 
to Paris, 88-9, 93 ; finan- 
cial difficulties, 98, 102, 
103, 104, 108, in, 183- 
4, 192, 211, 238, 240, 
2412, 251, 281, 290; 
works as bill-poster, 98 
9, 100; at Pont-Aven, 
1013; returns to Paris, 
103 ; goes to Martinique, 
107-10; illnesses, 109, 
no, 112, 115, 119, 173, 
187, 218, 219, 228-9, 
231-2,235,236, 240-1, 
242, 253,261, 273,286, 
288, 290-1; returns to 
France, 110-12; takes 
up ceramics, 115; re ~ 
turns to Pont-Aven, 1 1 6 ; 
with van Gogh at Aries, 
120-7; at Le Pouldu, 
129-34; development of 
artistic form, I33~4; re ~ 
turns to Paris, 134; at 
the Cafe Voltaire, 136- 
8, 144-5 ; goes to Copen- 
hagen, 139^4* ; p lans to 
go to Tahiti, I43~7 ; sale 
of pictures, 144; voyage 
to Tahiti, 147-53; life 
in Tahiti, 154-97; paint- 
ing in Tahiti, 164-8, 
171-2, 187, 195; pl ans 


to go to the Marquesas, 
191, 193; represented 
at the Free Exhibition 
in Copenhagen, 193, 
199; returns to France, 
196200; studio in the 
rue Vercingetorix, 202- 
4, 208, 216, 220; exhi- 
bition at Durand-RueFs, 
205, 207, 210-11; at 
Pont-Aven, 216-20; his 
shin broken, 218, 228- 
9, 231; resolves to re- 
turn to Oceania, 219, 
220, 232-3; sale of pic- 
tures (February 1895), 
219, 221, 228-31; re- 
turn to Tahiti, 235-57; 
becomes office employee, 
25 1 ; goes to the Mar- 
quesas, 256-7 ; life there, 
25792; religious opin- 
ions, 260, 267; on Mar- 
quesan art, 26871; 
painting in the Marque- 
sas, 273, 276, 286; 
anticipations of death, 
280-1; writes to the 
colonial inspectors, in- 
dicting the administra- 
tion, 283-4; charged 
with wrongful accusa- 
tion and sentenced, 288- 
91; death, 291-2 

QUOTED: Avant et 
Apres, 6, 8, 14-15, 16, 
19, 64, 66, 89-93, 

102, 104-6, 120-2, 


123-8, 137-8, 151-2, 

207, 221-6, 243, 259- 
60, 262-6, 268-72, 

283-4, 286-7; Noa- 
Noa, 152-4, 158-60, 
161-4,166-9, 172, 173- 
81, 182-3, 197,209-10; 
letters: to his wife, 96- 
7, 97-8, 98-100, 102- 
3, 107-9, 116-17, 129- 
31, 145-6, 155-6, 185- 
7, 191, 199-200, 210- 

12, 231-2, 24O-I; tO 

Durand-Ruel, 2067 5 
to Mme Heegaard, 42; 
to Daniel de Monfreid, 
147-8, 193-^ 218-19, 
237-9> 241-2, 246-7, 
248-50, 254, 273, 277- 
9, 281, 282, 289-90; 
to August Strindberg, 
226-8 ; to J. F. Willem- 
sen, 148 

Gauguin, Isidore, 12, 13, 
15, 17,201 

Gauguin, Marie (daughter 
of Paul and Juliette), 

I4 V 71 
Gauguin, Marie (sister of 

Paul), 4, 8, 9-10, n, 
12, 13, 14, 17, 20 
Gauguin, Mette Sofie (nee 
Gad), 24, 26-8, 29-31, 
37-43, 44, 45 46-8, 
57~8, 59, 60-1, 63, 74, 
75, 77, 7M, 80-1, 82, 
84-5, 88, 96-100, 108, 
in, 116-17, 130-1, 



191, 192, 196, 199,210- 

12, 213, 229, 231-2, 

241, 245 
Gauguin, Paul (Pola), 79, 

80, 140-1 

Gloanec, Mme, 117, 217 
Goncourt, de, 121 
Goupil, 114, 122 
Guepes, Les > 253-4 
Guillaumin, 63-4 
Guimet, Musee, 65, 115 

Heegaard, 30-1 
Heegaard, Mme, 42 
Heegaard, Marie, 30, 31, 

37) 38, 39) 40, 42 
Henriette, 234, 235 
Hommes du jour, Les, 246 
Hugues, Clovis, 137 
Huysmans, J. K., 69-73, 


I raro te oviri (Gauguin), 

la or ana Maria (Gau- 

guin), 171-2 
Impressionism and Im- 

pressionists, 44, 49"~56) 

73) 79) 94 
134, 215-16, 223 
Impression, L' (Monet), 

Ingres, 65, 121 

Jacob Wrestling with the 
,Jlngel (Gauguin), 144 
Jobte-Duval, 57 

Jongkind, 103 

Joseph and Potiphar's 

Wife (David), 65 
Journal des Voyages, Le, 


Juliette, 144, 147, 148, 171 
Justine, 61, 63, 67-8 

Lacascade, Governor, 


Laure, Jules, 9-10 
Laval, Charles, 109 
Lefebvre, 69 

Lepage, Bastien, 224, 225 
Levy, 238 
Loti, Pierre, 142, 143, 

206, 264 
Louis XIV, 86 
Louis Napoleon, 4 
Louis Philippe, 69 
Luckiest of- Three, The, 

Lund, 25 

Lund, Emilie, see Gad, 

Lutte de Jacob avec I'ange 

(Gauguin), 144 

Mallarme, Stephane, 137, 


Manao Tupapau (Gau- 
guin), 230, 243 

Manet, fidouard, 49, 50- 
2, 56, 60, 63, 64, 66-7, 
73) 75) 205, 211, 223- 
4) 225 

Manage de Loti, Le 
(Loti), 143 


Mauffra, 241 
McKInley, President, 265 
Meissonier, 90, 121 
Mercure de France, Le, 

Merry Wayfarer, The 

^( engraving), 15 
Michelangelo, 189, 239 
Millet, 44, 65, 105, 131, 

Mirbeau, Octave, 144, 

Mollard, 238 
Monet, Claude, 50, 52, 

205, 223 
Monfreid, Daniel de, 135- 


6, 199, 200-1, 218, 229, 

233> 237-9, 241-2, 252, 

25*. 257, 276, 277-9, 

288, 28990 
Monstres, Les (Dolent), 


Moreas, Jean, 137 
Morice, Charles, 136-7, 

146, 191, 205, 208, 209, 

212, 256 

Nadar, 44, 50, 52, 53 
Napoleon I, 265-6 
Napoleon III, 4 
National, 4 
Naturalism, 224 
Nevermore ( Gauguin ) , 

Noa~Noa (Gauguin and 

Morice), 209-10, 256 

Olympla (Manet), 49-50, 

Paillard, Pere, 262, 266 
Pascal, 250 

Paulsen (blacksmith), 25 
Paulsen, Lieutenant-Colo- 

nel, 25 
Paulsen, Pauline (nee Paul- 

sen), 25-6, 27, 28 
Petit, Ed., Governor, 264- 


Petit Journal, Le, 263 
Pink Shrimps, The (van 

Gogh), 104-6 
Pissarro, Camille, 50, 54 

6? 58-60, 6 1-2, 63-4, 

66, 69, 77, 185, 205, 

211, 2l6 

Pizarro, 5 

Poe, Edgar Allan, 33, 168 
Pointillism, 215-16 
Pomare V, King, 154-5, 

Post-Impressionism and 
Post-Impressionists, 113, 

Puvis de Chavannes, 224, 
225, 248 

Rachel, 223 
Raphael, 167 
Raphaelism, 216 
Reclus, filisee, 142 
Regnier, Henry, 16 
Rembrandt van Rijn, 71, 


Renan, Ary, 144 

Renoir, 44, 50, 53, 56, 60, 

63, 205 
Rijn, Rembrandt van, see 

Rodin, 137 
Rome vaincue (Parodi), 

Rousseau, Jean Jacques, 6, 


Saint-Simon, 7 
Salammbo (Flaubert), 291 
Salon, the, 44, 48, 5> 5* 
52, 53) 54) 75> 76, 194, 

215 , f 

Salon des Independants, 

52-3, 66, 68, 101 
Satre, Mme, 144 
Schuffenecker, fimile, 35, 

36, 42, 43) 44) 5 8 > ?6, 
94-5, 107, in, 112-15, 
) 204, 


212, 246 

Schuffenecker, Mme, 35-6, 

94, 112 

Seguin, Armand, 191 
Sejerstedt, 72 
Serusier, 117-18, 193 
Sisley, 63 

Skredsvig, Christian, 74-5 
Sourire, Le, 254 
Strindberg, August, 220- 

Study of the Nude (Gau- 

guin), 67, 68, 69-73 
Swedenborg, 244 

Symbolism and Symbolists, 
94-5, 113, 137, 208, 
215-16, 224, 246, 281 

Taine, 224 

Te Faruru Mais on du 

Jouir (Gauguin), 202 
Tehura, 176-83, 196, 197, 


Thaulow, Fritz, 745 
Therese, 262, 266 
Thorvaldsen, 91 
Tioka, 261, 291, 292 
Titi, 159-60, 169, 173 
Tombard, 18, 19 
Tristan, Flora Celestine 

Therese Henriette, see 

Chazal, Flora 
Tristan y Moscoso, Don 

Mario, 5, ir 
Tristan y Moscoso, Don 

Pio, 10-ir, 12 
Turner, J. M. W-, 9 1 

Vaitauni, 2756 

Van Gogh, Theo, 114, 115, 

118-19, 122 
Van Gogh, Vincent, 104- 

7, 114, 115, 116, 118- 

28, 129, 192 
Venus a la crime (Caba- 

nel), 69 
Verlaine, 136 
Vernier, Paul, 260, 285-6, 

Vollard, Ambroise, 252, 

253) 277) 279) 290 



Wessel, Herman, 25 
Whence do We Come? 
. . , (Gauguin), 248-50, 

255, 278 
Winkelmann, 72 
Wolff, Albert, 52 

Woman with a Parrot 
(Courbet), 69 

Zola, fimile, 50, 64, 223, 


This book is set on the linotype In Caslon, so called after William 
Caslon (16921766}, the first of a famous English family of type- 
designers and founders. He was originally an afp-entice to an 
engraver of gun-locks and gun-barrels in London* In iji6 he 
opened his own shof, for silver-chasing and making bookbinders* 
stamps ; The 'printers John Watts and William Bowyer y admirers 
of his skill in cutting ornaments and letters, advanced him money 
to equi'p himself for type-founding, which he began in 7720. The 
fonts he cut in 1722. for Bowyer*s sumftuous folio edition of John 
Selden, 'published in 1726; excited great interest, A specimen sheet 
of type faces, issued in iJ34> made Caslon* s superiority to all other 
letter-cutters of the time, English or Dutch y quickly reco gnixed, 
and soon his types, or types modelled on his style, were being used 
by most English 'printers, supplanting the Dutch types that had 
formerly p-evailed. In style Caslon was a reversion to earlier type 
styles. Its characteristics are remarkable regularity and symmetry, 
as well as beauty m the sha<pe and 'proportion of the letters ; its gen- 
eral effect is clear and open, but not weak or delicate. For uniform- 
ity, clearness, and readability it has 'perhaps never been surpassed. 
After Caslon* s death his eldest son, also named William (7720 
7#), carried on the business successfully. Then followed a period 
of neglect of nearly fifty years. In 1843 Caslon type was revived 
by the then firm of Caslon for William Pickering and has since 
been one of the most widely used of all type designs in 
English and American 'printing.